Overall the company suffered a 7.2 percent reduction in sales to $15bn. While the depressed retail market played a role, exchange rate fluctuations accounted for as much as 6 percent of the fall.
Profit forecast for the year
Net earnings for the quarter were also depressed falling 2.5 percent to $3.5bn. Despite the downward direction of the figure J&J says it remains on track to meet its 2009 profit forecast of $4.45 to $4.55 a share.
Nevertheless CEO William Weldon was upbeat. He said: “Despite challenging economic and near term business pressures, we continue to deliver solid financial results.
“We are continuing to make strategic investments in order to bring important new products to market, positioning us well for long-term growth.”
The consumer division, which covers J&J’s wide range of personal care products, came in with sales of $3.7bn, a decrease of 8.7 percent on the figure for last year.
The company said sales comparisons were negatively affected by the initial build up of inventories related to the 2008 launch of the allergy pill Zyrtec.
Nevertheless, it insisted that sales of Listrerine mouthwash and the skin care lines of Neutrogena and Aveeno were strong during the quarter.
J&J made no mention in its results about its baby care products which recently came under attack from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. J&J baby personal care brands were named among the products containing traces of 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde, chemicals that the CSC claims are linked to cancer and skin allergies.
The fortunes of J&J’s two other divisions over the first quarter were mixed. Pharmaceutical sales were down 10.1 percent while medical devices & diagnostics was the top performer reporting a sales dip of 2.9 percent.