NEW YORK — Delta Mills Inc. and Delta Apparel Inc. each managed to improve first-quarter results, despite the lagging economy and tepid domestic manufacturing scene.Greenville, S.C.-based Delta Mills posted profits of $1.4 million, or 24 cents per share, for its first quarter ended Sept. 28. This compared with a year-ago loss of $8.2 million, or $1.40 per share. The most recent period included an aftertax gain of $454,000, or 8 cents per share, from the repurchase of debt, while the year-ago period included a pretax operating loss of $8.7 million, or 96 cents per share after tax, related to the closure of a facility. Excluding the special items, earnings per share of 16 cents in the most recent quarter compared with year-ago losses of 44 cents.Sales for the three months expanded 24.9 percent to $46.2 million, from $37 million a year ago.The firm attributed the rising sales to increased volume driven by market demand. Profits, in turn, were a product of the higher sales, an improved running schedule and lower operating costs.On a conference call, William Garrett, president and chief executive officer, said the quarter’s improvement stemmed from "many items being worked on by different teams, all focused on one final target — profitability." In a statement, he remained cautious about near-term business prospects at retail: "As the holiday season approaches, consumers continue to be concerned about job security, and retailers are nervous about holiday store traffic."To the south, Duluth, Ga.-based Delta Apparel Inc. expanded its first-quarter earnings to $1.8 million, or 43 cents per diluted share, from just $64,000, or 1 cent, a year ago. Results reflect a 2-for-1 stock split on Sept. 20.Sales for the period ended Sept. 28 dipped 6.9 percent to $28.9 million from $31 million a year ago. Lower sales resulted from a 9.8 percent drop-off in unit volume, which was offset somewhat by a 3.2 percent increase in average selling prices. This shift related to greater demand for basic white products after last year’s terrorist attacks.Inventories at the end of the quarter were up 35.9 percent from a year ago to $48.4 million, in order to support the firm’s expanded product line and anticipated sales growth next year. Delta Apparel will also be opening a new distribution center in Florida and increasing the number of sales personnel to drive the growth.Robert Humphreys, president and ceo, in a statement, added: "Our West Coast distribution center continues to allow us to reach new customers in this important geographic region."Until 2000, the two firms, along with Duck Head Apparel Co., were joined under the Delta Woodside banner. Now, Delta Mills manufactures textiles as the sole operating division of Delta Woodside, and Delta Apparel is a separate public firm that markets knit products and specializes in T-shirts. Duck Head, which produced men’s and boys’ casual sportswear, has since been acquired by Tropical Sportswear International.

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