Leading specialty fashion and footwear retailer Le Chateau Inc on Thursday posted a 12 per cent year-on-year climb in first quarter sales to $43 million and a 16 per cent jump in same-store sales.

The operator of more than 160 stores said net earnings for the first quarter were $343,000, or $0.07 per share, compared to a net loss of $555,000, or $0.11 per share, a year ago.

It added for the 10-week period ended July 6, 2002, its strong sales trend continued with total retail sales up 23 per cent and same store sales up 26 per cent.

For fiscal 2001, Le Chateau posted a net profit of $1.9m compared to a net loss of $2.6m in the year prior. Sales increased 16 per cent last year to $188m and comparable store sales increased 14 per cent.

Le Chateau president, Emilia Di Raddo, said 2001 was a transitional year which saw both a return to profitability and an analysis of how the company does business.

She added: "We tested strategies that would enable us to build a stronger infrastructure and a culture that is designed for speed, innovation and continual change. And most importantly, we directed our greatest efforts towards elevating the quality of our brand and widening its appeal. We have seen marked improvement in all of these areas."