Garfinckel, Brooks Brothers, Miller & Rhoads, Inc. will sell its Joseph R. Harris stores to the Petrie Stores Corp. of Cleveland, a chain of budget to moderately-priced women's apparel shops.

The Harris stores, more recently named Harris & Friends, had been less profitable than the Washingtonbased Garfinckel Corporation's other subsidiaries. Harris also was at the center of a dispute between Garfinkel and Gamble-Skogmo Inc., shich bought 10 percent of Garfinckel stock from the Harris family-original owners of the Harris chain-last year.

A Garfinckel spokesman said the dispute with Gamble-Skogmo had nothing to do with the sale announced yesterday.

"The sale was being made as a result of Garfinckel management's determination that it is in the best interest of shareholders to redeploy the assests represented by this sale into other areas of our business," said Garfinckel President David R. Waters.

Last year, the 26 Harris stores in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania and the Dististrict had sales of $10 million, but the chain operated at a net loss of $1.4 million, according to figures released by Garfinckel.

The sale of Harris will increase previously reported earnings per share of the Garfinckel company for fiscal 1978 by 10.6 percent, from $2.92 to $3,23, a Garfinckel spokesman said.

About two years ago, Garfinckel hired away Stephen Spiro from Bloomingdale's in New York to turn around the Harris store's image of catering to a market from teens to grandmothers in bnudget-priced and budget-styled clothing.

Spiro tred to target the stores to ward women aged 22 to 45 who buy fashionable clothes at moderate prices. Garfinckel bought the 63-year-old Harris chain in 1971.

The Petrie Company operates 479 stores in 41 states and Puerto Rico under the names of Petries, Marianne and Stuarts. Sales of Petrie increased from $226 million in 1975 to $383 million last year.

Despite the recent Harris losses under Garfinckel mangement, Petrie Senior Vice President Robert Mandel said yesterday that the stores were purchased because "they have wonderful locations in wonderful areas. We feel we have been successful in the past and we can operate them to our great benefit."

Mandel said Petries had discussed the acquisition with Garfinckel for several months but "we don't have a definite decision" on what will happen to the individual Harris stores. "We are examining each location."

One of several possibilities is changing the Harris stores to one of Petrie's budget-to-moderate-priced stores. The only Petrie store in the Washington area is Marianne at Lakeforest Mall, in Gaithersburg.

Spokesmen for both companies declined to disclose the purchase price to the sale.