Women's career and casual sportswear company, Bernard Chaus Inc, on Wednesday posted a near 40 per cent fall in first quarter net profit from the same quarter of last year despite a climb in sales.

The New York-based firm said net income for the 13 weeks ended September 30 decreased to $1 million, or three cents per diluted share, compared to net income of $1.6m, or five cents per share, last year.

Sales rose to $38.8m from to $34.8m in the year-ago period and include a contribution from the product lines of SL Danielle, which the company acquired in November 2002.

Chairwoman and CEO, Josephine Chaus, said in a news release: "Our performance in the first quarter is indicative of several key trends underway in our business.

"The 11.5 per cent increase in sales in the period reflects strong sales in our exclusive and private label business, which is allowing us to diversify our revenue base by entering the moderate and mass market segments of the women's clothing market.

"While we are working to further build this newer part of our business, we remain focused on collaborating closely with our department store customers in order to best position our core Josephine Chaus brand in what continues to be a challenging retail environment."