NEW YORK — Second-quarter sales were off slightly as Bernard Chaus Inc. slipped more deeply into the red.

The New York-based company reported Thursday that its net loss for the three months ended Dec. 31, 2001, reached $5.3 million, or 20 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $3.7 million, or 14 cents, in the year-ago period.

Net sales for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2001 declined 0.8 percent to $30 million from $30.2 million last year.

The New York-based company, which designs, sources and markets women’s career and casual sportswear principally under the Josephine Chaus brand, attributed the loss to the weak economy.

“Even before the impact of Sept. 11, our industry faced a challenging retail environment in the second quarter, with department stores planning their business very cautiously and consumer apparel purchases remaining promotionally driven,” said chief executive Josephine Chaus in a statement. “As a result of these factors, it was necessary to sell more merchandise through the off-price channel, impacting our performance.”

For the first six months of fiscal 2002, Chaus reported a net loss of $5.9 million, or 22 cents a share, as compared to last year’s first-half net loss of $4.6 million, or 17 cents. Sales totaled $69.4 million, 2.1 percent below the year-ago market of $70.9 million.

Chaus said the company intends to reverse its fortunes in the second half by eliminating approximately $3.2 million in overhead and reducing prior- and upcoming-season inventories.

Chaus’s stock closed down 10 cents, or 20.8 percent, to close at 38 cents in over-the-counter trading. The stock has traded in a range of 26 to 60 cents in the past year.

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