May Department Stores Co., parent firm of the Hecht Co., yesterday reported a decline in profits and very Sluggish sales growth for the quarter ended April 30. F.W. Woolworth Co. also reported lower first-quarter profits.

St. Louis-based May, the nation's second-largest department store company, listed profits of $7.46 million (33 cents a share) for the first quarter compared with $8.41 million (37 cents) in the 1976 period.

Overall company sales rose 6.9 per cent to $460 million, reflecting large gains at discount and catalog showroom divisions. Department stores sales rose only 4.2 per cent, however, and store-for-store (counting stores open in both years) sales increases were a slim 2.2 per cent.

May Co. officers said that although the 1976 period against which comparisons are being made was unusually strong, "our first quarter sales increase was below our projections."

Chairman David E. Babcock and president David C. Farrell said they are hopeful the quarter represented a "short-term trend and that sales will improve as the improvements in general business becomes more apparent and restores consumer confidence."

The department store company does not provide data on sales and profits at regional divisions, such as the Hecht Co., in Washington and Baltimore.

W. F. Woolworth Co., fifth largest of the U.S. retail chain firms, earn $7 million (21 cents a share) in the first quarter compared with $13.8 million (45 cents) a year earlier. Sales were up slightly to $1.15 billion from $1.09 billion.

Officers of Woolworth blamed weak sales on cold winter weather and said profits were reduced by foreign exchange fluctuations.

Uniroyal, Inc., the third-largest U.S. rubber manufacturer, reported that first-quarter profits soared to $13.3 million (46 cents a share) vs. $6.5 million (20 cents) in the 1976 period, a rate of increase that exceeded company projections last month. Sales rose to $651 million from $572 million.