JD Sports raises profits guidance

The owner of retail chain JD Sports continued to defy expectations today after it revealed “pleasingly positive” Christmas sales figures.

The owner of retail chain JD Sports continued to defy expectations today after it revealed “pleasingly positive” Christmas sales figures.

John David Group said the festive trading performance meant profits would be higher than current forecasts in the year to February 2 – the second time it has raised City guidance in just over a month.

It said like-for-like sales in the eight week Christmas trading period to January 5 were 9.3% higher, with a further improvement in margins.

The update last month prompted Investec Securities to upgrade its full-year profits forecast to £34m (€45m), from £30m (€40m) previously targeted. The company achieved a profits figure of £25.1m (€33.5m) last year.

JD Sports operates in the same sector as JJB and Sport Direct, but it is much less reliant on replica kit sales – an area under pressure following the England football team’s failure to qualify for the Euro 2008 tournament.

The group, which has around 400 stores, started in 1981 when John David Sports opened with one shop in Bury. It is now 57% owned by Pentland Group, a group whose principal interests are in sports and fashion brands, such as Lacoste and Speedo.

Peter Cowgill, John David executive chairman, said: “The current trading period has been a very good one for the group which has seen a further and substantial uplift in our performance as a result of both the strategy adopted by the board following my return to the group as chairman in 2004, and of a lot of hard work by all our employees over the last three years.”

The group described Christmas trading as “pleasingly positive” after its sports-focused stores achieved sales growth of 8.8% and its fashion-based outlets grew by 16.6% on a like-for-like basis.

The group said it continued to increase marketing, IT and merchandising support to achieve the current level of sales improvement.

John David provided a further boost to investors today by announcing plans to buy back shares in the company.

In September, JD Sports overcame the industry-wide slump in summer sales after it reported a more than doubling of half-year pre-tax profits. The sportswear and fashion retailer posted underlying profits up by 158% to £8.1m (€10.8m) in the six months to July 28 and said trading had been “highly satisfactory” since then.

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