The economic downturn, retail bankruptcies and a weak performance by the Dockers brand were all blamed as Levi Strauss & Co saw its first quarter profit halved to US$48m.

Net revenues fell 12% to $951m in the three months to 1 March, also impacted by negative currency effects and a weak retail environment in most global markets, Levi's said.

The company added that the bankruptcies of two "significant" US customers and the poor performance of Dockers had added to its problems, which were slightly offset by increased sales from new stores.

Gross profit fell to $445m from $545m a year ago, while gross margins were hit by higher sales allowances and discounts, plus higher inventory markdowns.

Operating income was $106m, compared to $187m.

Nonetheless, Levi's president and CEO John Anderson said the company's eponymous brand had performed "relatively well" in the tough retail climate.

Revenues in the Americas were down 13% to $504m, and sales in Europe fell 19% to $267m, hit by negative currency effects and the weak retail environment.

However, revenues in Asia Pacific climbed 3% to $180m, boosted by the company's retail expansion in China and product promotions in the region.

"Our sales growth in Asia Pacific demonstrates the advantage of our broad global footprint," said Anderson.

"Although our Dockers performance was disappointing, we finished the first quarter where we expected to be given the difficult operating environment.

"We are focused this year on gaining market share, controlling operating costs and investing strategically to strengthen our brands during the market downturn."