Specialist apparel retailer The Wet Seal hailed early signs of a turnaround in its Arden B chain, despite posting a 44% decline in first quarter profits.

Net sales fell 7.3% to US$132m in the three months to 2 May, with overall company comparable store sales declining 7.3%.

By retail concept, The Wet Seal comparable store sales fell 7.9%, while Arden B's comps decline was 4.1%, raising hopes of a revival in its fortunes. "

We were very pleased to see early signs of a turnaround in our Arden B business, which… delivered positive comparable store sales for the first month in two years in April," said The Wet Seal CEO Ed Thomas.

He added that results at The Wet Seal itself had been impacted by the difficult retail environment, plus inventory mix issues.

First quarter operating income fell to $5.2m from $8.7m in the same period last year, while net income slumped 44% to $5m.

The company is forecasting a 7-10% decline in comparable store sales during the second quarter, yielding revenues of $135-140m and diluted earnings per share of $0.02-0.05.