Fashion group retailer Noni B Ltd on Wednesday said first quarter earnings beat management expectations and the outlook for the rest of the year is bright.

The operator of 165 stores did not reveal actual profit and sales figures for the latest quarter in a trading update released at its annual general meeting but said they were better-than-expected.

Chairman Robert Critchley said: "Sales were strong, especially in Queensland where they were helped by the warm spring, and also in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.

"Weather can have a significant impact on our sales, but at this stage we remain positive about the year".

Managing director Alan Kindl added store productivity, measured as sales per person hour, had continued to increase during 2003.

Margins had also increased, partly due to more effective management of stock mix, and further margin benefit was expected as a result of the strengthening of the Australian dollar he said.