* Net sales down 8.3 pct at $303.8 mln
* Q1 loss $0.38 a share, vs $0.29 profit last year (Adds outlook, analyst comment)
TORONTO, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Clothing maker Gildan Activewear Inc reported a quarterly loss on Wednesday due in part to higher cotton prices and lower sales.
The company said results were hurt as it offered distributors price reductions in an attempt to reduce inventory levels of its products, and by costs associated with a manufacturing shutdown for inventory management.
The company is a top supplier to the screenprint market in the United States and Canada, with more than 60 percent of the market. It also supplies private-label and Gildan-branded socks, primarily to mass-market retailers.
Gildan, which had forecast the first-quarter loss in December, reiterated its fiscal year forecast of $1.30 a share in earnings on sales of about $1.9 billion.
RBC Capital Markets analyst Tal Woolley wrote in a research note that industry conditions may be better than Gildan expects.
"Screenprint pricing should now only be modestly lower year-over-year on average, while retail pricing should improve for the balance of the year," he said.
The Montreal-based company's loss for its first quarter, ended Jan. 1, was $46.1 million, or 38 cents a share, compared with earnings of $35.9 million, or 29 cents, a year earlier. Net sales fell 8.3 percent to $303.8 million. (Reporting By Allison Martell; Editing by Peter Galloway and Steve Orlofsky)