Rocky Brands saw a 17.2 percent drop in net sales for the first quarter to $50.1 million. The net loss for the period, ended March 31, was $1.1 million, compared with net income of $0.3 million for the same period in 2008. Wholesale sales dipped by 9.5 percent to $36.0 million in the quarter, as customers placed fewer orders, trying to keep their inventories low. A 15.9 percent drop to $18.5 million was recorded in the work boot category, which includes the Georgia Boot, Dickies, Rocky and Michelin brands.

Retail sales were off by 27.5 percent to $13.7 million, largely due to a transition to more internet-driven transactions and a decision to remove some Lehigh mobile stores from its operations. The company is now using only 65 Lehigh trucks to sell its products in the U.S., down from 85 last December.

The company’s gross margin for the period fell by 2.8 percentage points to 40.1 percent, with declines at both the wholesale and retail levels. Income from operations fell to $0.1 million from $2.9 million in 2008, despite a 13.5 percent cut in operating expenses such as wages, advertising and sales commissions. Inventories at the end of the quarter were down by nearly 2 percent compared with 2008 to $78.4 million.