West Marine today reported sales of US$121.5m for its first quarter ended March 31, 2012, a 6.7 per cent gain over the same quarter a year ago. Its net loss narrowed to US$6.2m compared to a loss of US$12.3m a year ago.

The company said in a statement that same-store sales rose 4.3 per cent, while revenues in its “Stores” segment grew 7.9 per cent to US$7.9m. West Marine reported higher sales in all “core categories” in the first quarter.

The company also said it was debt-free by the end of the quarter, compared to US$21.1m outstanding under its credit facility a year ago.

"2012 is off to a strong start for West Marine and we are encouraged by these results,” said Geoff Eisenberg, CEO, in the statement. “The success of our growth strategies, combined with a relatively warm and dry spring, puts us in a great position as we enter our key boating season.”

Its Port Supply segment, which sells to wholesale customers through distribution centers, reported a drop of US$0.2m, or 3.6 per cent, in sales compared to the same period last year. “Our ongoing execution of real estate optimization, including adding hubs in our store locations that target and cater to Port Supply customers, continues to shift revenue from the Port Supply segment to the Stores segment,” said Eisenberg.

The mass retailer's catalogue and internet business also dropped by US$0.1m for the quarter, or 0.7 per cent. The company said lower sales to international customers caused the decline, while domestic sales demonstrated solid growth.

Total inventory at the end of the first quarter was US$240.9m, a US$6.8m (or 2.7 per cent) decrease versus the first quarter of last year, and a 4.3 per cent decrease on an inventory per square foot basis. Inventory turns for 2012 were up slightly versus the first quarter of last year.