JD Sports upbeat after profits rise

JD Sports Fashion posted an 11% rise in profits today as it continued to show a clean pair of heels to troubled rivals in the sportswear sector.

JD Sports Fashion posted an 11% rise in profits today as it continued to show a clean pair of heels to troubled rivals in the sportswear sector.

The retail chain said profits in the six months to August 1 hit £10.1m (€11.1m) following sales growth at JD Sports and its Bank fashion stores.

JD said the performance enabled it to continue with store refurbishments and to open five new sports stores and five more in its fashion estate. It recently acquired the rights to rugby brand Canterbury of New Zealand and made its first move overseas with the acquisition of Lille-based retailer Chausport.

The company, which was founded in 1981 with one shop in Bury, has fared much better than its rivals, helped by its strong offering through fashion brands Scotts and Bank and its limited exposure to replica football kit sales.

It has also seen competitors JJB Sports and Sports World owner Sports Direct International distracted by a number of non-trading issues.

Earlier this month it emerged that JJB blew the whistle to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) on alleged cartel activity in the sports retail market.

JJB Sports and Sports World owner Sports Direct International are now being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office after a referral from the OFT.

The fraud investigation follows an acrimonious battle between Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley and JJB chairman Sir David Jones over a personal loan.

Shares in JD Sports Fashion opened almost 2% higher following today's results, which were in line with market expectations.

The company described trading in the second half of the year as satisfactory, with like-for-like sales up by 0.8% in the six weeks to September 12. This reflected growth of 1.3% in sports retail and a fall of 2.4% in fashion.

Chairman Peter Cowgill said the company’s 343 sports outlets were the driving force behind the group’s progress.

He added: “Their strength lies in our unique blend of sports and fashion brands, the strong brand relationships which allow us to develop exclusive products, and our exclusive own brands and superior visual merchandising.”

The sports retail division increased operating profits by £1m (€1.1m) to £17.2m (€19m), while it completed 12 store refurbishments in the half-year period at a cost of £4.5m (€5m). By the end of the year JD expects the number of refits to reach 21 as it seeks a more consistent look and feel in its estate.

JD’s fashion division, which operates from 95 sites, reduced operating losses from £3.3m (€3.6m) to £2.7m (€3m). The company said it remained optimistic that Bank will develop into a “successful national chain”.

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