JD Sports encouraged by recent sales

The owner of the JD Sports chain today said it managed to grow sales over the past month despite slowing spending and the impact of the London bombings.

The owner of the JD Sports chain today said it managed to grow sales over the past month despite slowing spending and the impact of the London bombings.

John David Group said sales rebounded after a tough May and June when shoppers bought fewer sports goods than during Euro 2004.

Like-for-like sales for the 24 weeks to July 16 were down 0.1% and well below the 2.4% growth seen in the first 13 weeks of its financial year.

But analysts said the firm had traded well and much better than listed rival JJB Sports, which reported a 9.4% slump in like-for-like sales for the 22 weeks to July 3.

Rhys Williams, a retail analyst at broker Seymour Pierce, said: “This is a good performance (by John David Group) considering the poor retail environment and the slowdown seen across the high street.”

John David confirmed that the high street was still struggling with consumer confidence at a low ebb as a result of downturn in the UK economy.

But the company said: “We are pleased to report that the like-for-like sales performance has been positive over the last four weeks, despite the adverse influence of the London bombings.”

John David sells fashion clothing and sports goods – the two retail areas credited by the UK's Office for National Statistics (ONS) today for the biggest monthly rise in retail sales for more than a year in June.

It has 8,500 staff working in around 360 stores under the JD Sports, Athleisure, Open Nike and Size? brands.

The breakdown in sales for the 24-week period showed growth of 0.2% at its sports stores, but sales of fashion items were 3.4% lower than a year ago.

“Notably, however, overall gross margins improved in both divisions and operating costs are within expectations,” the company said.

John David said it had streamlined the stocks and brands of its JD Fashion chain and casual fashion retailer RD Scott, which it acquired in December.

But the process has come at a price with sales hit in the short term. “We expect that the co-ordinated approach to the autumn ranges currently being delivered will produce a more positive performance,” the company said.

John David faced a takeover offer in May from Pentland Group – the owner of brands such as Speedo and Kickers – after founders John Wardle and David Makin sold their combined 45% shareholding for £44.6m (€64.2m).

Pentland was forced into making the formal offer for the whole of John David by takeover rules as it was buying more than 30% of the company. It currently owns 57% of shares, but has yet to appoint a representative to the board.

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