Athletic footwear and apparel retailer The Finish Line Inc has swung to a first quarter profit after tight control of its inventory and a focus on premium lines helped raise product margins and selling price.

For the three months to 31 May, income was $0.9m, or $.02 per share, compared to a loss of $2.6m, or $.05 per share, in the same period last year.

Quarterly sales increased 0.8% to $287.9m from $285.8m last time, and same store sales were up 1.2%. By concept, comparable store sales rose 1.6% at Finish Line but fell 7.1% at Man Alive.

Merchandise inventories fell to $281.2m at 31 May, compared to $308.1m at 2 June 2007.

Alan H Cohen, the company's chief executive officer, stated, "While the macroeconomic conditions remain challenging, we are encouraged by the improvement in our business during April and May, which demonstrates the progress we are making in the execution of our strategic merchandising plans and inventory management.

"We have decreased our inventory levels as well as improved the overall inventory aging versus last year.

"Our continued focus on premium performance and sport style products in the Finish Line stores drove product margins and average selling price higher during the quarter."

Indianapolis-based Finish Line operates 699 Finish Line stores and 94 Man Alive stores.