Casual footwear firm Skechers USA Inc swung to a third quarter net loss of $5.9 million compared to net earnings of $14.1 million in the third quarter of the prior year.

The Manhattan Beach, California-based company said on Thursday that sales in the three months to 30 September 2003 fell 15 per cent to $221.8 million from $261.1 million in the third quarter of 2002.

But David Weinberg, chief financial officer, said lower gross margins and earnings for the third quarter were "due to our aggressive approach in reducing our inventory levels."

Gross profit for the third quarter was $78.6 million compared to $108.8 million in the third quarter of last year. Gross margin was 35.5 per cent compared to 41.7 percent in the third quarter of 2002.

For the nine-month period, net sales were $659.7 million compared to net sales of $762.7 million in the first nine months of the prior year. Net earnings for the nine months were $0.5 million, as compared to net earnings of $55.6 million last time year.

The company said it expects fourth quarter 2003 sales to be in the range of $155 million to $165 million and a loss per share of between $0.45 and $0.55 per share.