Maternity clothing retailer Mothers Work Inc has posted a drop in first quarter net income to $2.1 million, down from $3.6m in the same period a year ago.

The Philadelphia-based company, which attributed the downturn to weak fashions and increased competition, also reported a five per cent drop in comparable store sales for the quarter.

Net sales, however, increased 4.2 per cent to $131.7m for the three-month period, up from $126.3m in first quarter 2003.

"Although we were able to deliver earnings for the quarter within our previous guidance range, we are not satisfied with our performance for the first quarter," COO Rebecca Matthias said.

"We believe our sales and earnings for the quarter were adversely affected by certain weaknesses in the fashion portion of our product line, a continued difficult retail environment and, perhaps, the effect of increased competition in the maternity apparel market both from new and existing competitors."

Mothers Work operated 1027 retail locations at the end of the first quarter.