Apparel and footwear retailer Genesco Inc on Thursday posted a steep fall in first quarter net profit amid flat sales at most of its chains in a weak retail environment.

The Tennessee-based operator of around 1,000 stores under banners such as Journeys, Journeys Kidz, Johnston & Murphy, Jarman and Underground, posted net income of 3.3 million, or 15 cents a share, versus $8.2m, or 33 cents a share, in the year-ago period.

Total sales in the 13 weeks to May 3 edged up to $193m from $191m in the first quarter of 2002.

Same-store sales at its Journeys division slipped three per cent but rose seven per cent at Underground Station although Jarman same-store sales fell 10 per cent. It added sales of Dockers footwear fell 19 per cent to $19m from the year prior.

President and CEO, Hal Pennington, said: "Our results for the quarter reflect the general retail environment and a level of demand for seasonal merchandise that was behind both historical norms and our expectations.

"We were, however, pleased to see continued strength in our Underground Station stores and some signs of progress at Johnston & Murphy.

The firm said it now expects second quarter sales of $179m $181m and earnings per share to be breakeven. For the third quarter, it sees sales to of $224m to $233m and earnings between 4q and 48 cents a share.

It added for the fourth quarter, it expects sales to range from $266m to $278m and earnings of 72 to 82 cents and for fiscal 2004 it sees sales in the range of $862m and $885m and earnings of $1.32 to $1.50.