NEW YORK — Delta Apparel Inc. on Friday posted a first-quarter profit two-thirds lower than its year-ago counterpart.

Net income for the three months ended Sept. 27 dropped 67.1 percent to $589,000, or 14 cents a diluted share, compared with $1.8 million, or 43 cents, last year. Sales rose 6.6 percent to $30.8 million from $28.9 million.

The company said that higher sales resulted from a 21.3 percent increase in unit volume, partially offset by a 12.1 percent decrease in average selling prices. It also said that it was affected by pricing declines in the marketplace, dropping the firm’s average selling prices below those from the prior-year quarter.

“Pricing for commodity activewear products remained difficult,” Robert Humphreys, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “However, we are pleased with the sales growth that we achieved during the quarter and expect sales of our products to continue to grow in unit and total dollar sales in our second fiscal quarter.”

Also affecting earnings for the quarter was the decrease in gross profit, which fell to 13.3 percent of sales from 20.8 percent a year ago.

The company said accounts receivable increased $2.8 million to $17.4 million, mostly because of higher sales during the current quarter. Inventories were $50.2 million, gaining $3 million from June 28 — its fiscal 2003 yearend — and up $1.8 million from the year-ago quarter.

Humphreys noted that the company made progress with its cost-reduction programs and expects further improvements in the second quarter.

In addition, the company said it completed its acquisition of M.J. Soffe Co., which produces activewear products and last year had sales of $96 million. The purchase was finalized this month, so Soffe’s results aren’t included in those for the first quarter.

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