Leading men's, women's and children's branded and private label apparel manufacturer, Oxford Industries Inc, on Thursday announced its sales for the second quarter fell 19.7 per cent to $156.5 million from $194.9m in the same period last year.

Second quarter earnings for the period ended November 31 slipped $0.5m from $2.7m in 2000, while diluted earnings per share slumped 83.3 per cent to $0.06 from $0.36 in the second quarter last year.

For the six months ended November 30, 2001, sales declined 15.8 per cent to $336.1m from $399.2m last year. Earnings were $3.6m compared to $6.2m last year.

Year-to-date diluted earnings per share declined 41.5 per cent to $0.48 from $0.82 last year.

President and chairman, J Hicks Lanier, said: "The current operating environment is as challenging as we have seen. The weak economy, worsened by the tragic events of September 11, has had a significant impact on our business.

"Retailers have planned more conservatively and purchased closer to the selling season in response to weakened consumer demand for apparel. Efforts by our customers to lower retail inventories have led to increased order deferrals, cancellations and returns."

He added: "Despite the sales decline, we improved our balance sheet by aggressive asset management. Total inventories declined $47.7m or 30 per cent from last year to $111.2m.

"The strength of our balance sheet leaves us well positioned to weather the current economic downturn and capitalise on future growth and acquisition opportunities.''