Vertically integrated marketer, manufacturer and distributor of knit clothing, Delta Apparel Inc, on Friday posted a sharp fall in first quarter earnings to $600,000 from $1.2 million last year.

The Georgia-based company, which makes short and long sleeve T-shirts, golf shirts and activewear, said sales for the quarter ended September 27 rose 6.6 per cent to $30.8 million from $28.9m last year.

It added the higher sales were the result of a 21.3 per cent rise in unit volume, partially offset by a 12.1 per cent fall in average selling prices.

President and CEO, Robert Humphreys, said: "Pricing for commodity activewear products remained difficult; however, we are pleased with the sales growth that we achieved during the quarter and expect sales of our products to continue to grow in unit and total dollar sales in our second fiscal quarter.

"We made progress during the quarter on our cost reduction programs, including improvements in our production efficiencies, improvements in our material utilisation and reductions in our off quality production. We feel we have good momentum and expect further cost improvements in the second quarter."

Earlier this month, Delta apparel completed its acquisition of clothing firm MJ Soffee which enjoyed sales of $100m in fiscal 2002 and has more than 1,400 staff.