Leading knitwear manufacturer Delta Apparel Inc on Tuesday posted a small rise in first quarter net profit to $1.8 million from $1.7m in the year-ago period despite sluggish sales.

The Georgia-based firm, which specialises in undecorated T-shirts, golf shirts and tank tops and employs around 3,100 people worldwide, said sales fell 6.9 per cent to $28.9m from $31m in 2001.

It attributed the lower sales to a 9.8 slide in unit volume which was partially offset by a 3.2 per cent rise in average selling prices.

President and CEO, Robert Humphreys, President and CEO, said: "We are pleased with the increase in earnings for the quarter and the progress we made in building the foundation to grow Delta Apparel in the future.

"We continued to add new customers during the quarter and increased our sales percentage in the catalogue direct segment. Our West Coast distribution centre continues to allow us to reach new customers in this important geographic region.

"We have now signed a lease on a distribution centre in Miami, which will be open in time to support our spring selling season."

Delta Apparel has operations in six states, two company-operated sewing facilities in Honduras and one company-operated sewing facility in Mexico.