Specialty retailer of leather outerwear and apparel, Wilsons The Leather Experts Inc, on Wednesday posted a first quarter net loss of $14.7 million versus a net loss of $3.7m in the year-ago period.

The Minneapolis-based operator of over 900 stores said that increase was primarily due to the addition of Bentley's Luggage and pressure on sale and margins. It added net sales for the 13-weeks to May 4, 2002 climbed 1.5 per cent to $119.3m.

Chairman and CEO, Joel Waller, commented: "We knew that this would be a challenging quarter for us and these results are in line with our expectations. More importantly, we are encouraged by the continued signs of improvement in our sales trends and feel we have been successful in positioning the company for success during the remainder of the year."

He continued: "We believe that the worst is behind us. Since mid-April our Wilson's Leather stores have posted steadily improving positive comparable stores sales. This has been driven by the receipt of new styles, which are selling very well, and is an encouraging sign for our fall season."

The firm added it is comfortable with its prior guidance for the year of a sales range of $775m-$785m and earnings per share range of $0.95-$1.00.