JD Sports’s first-half profits rose more than 80% to a record £46.6m, as sales of trainers and other sports fashion boomed on UK high streets.
In the six months to 1 August, pre-tax profit before exceptional items jumped 82%, from £25.5m a year earlier, as revenue surged 21% to £809.9m. Statutory pre-tax profit rose 88%.
Sales at stores open a year or more increased by more than 10%, as shoppers bought trainers made by Nike and other leading brands. It said trading in August and September had been encouraging, suggesting JD was not badly affected by weak clothing sales on British high streets over the summer.
JD shares have more than doubled in price in the past year. They rose to a record 917p after the results announcement and were up 0.7% at 900p in afternoon trading.
Brian Small, JD’s finance director, said footwear and women’s sportswear had sold especially well.
“We are strong across the board. We are particularly pleased with trainer sales and we are doing better than ever with ladies’ wear. Various fitness classes are popular at the moment, such as yoga and pilates.”
He said JD was also benefiting from people taking part in sport into middle and old age.
JD has been one of British retailing’s success stories, defying gloomy patches in the wider market, such as last Christmas, by capitalising on sporting fashion wear. It has carved out an upmarket niche by selling the latest items from in-demand brands such as Adidas as well as its own lines, including Duffer of St George.
Small said JD’s close links with Adidas and Nike, and spending to keep stores looking smart, gave it access to sought-after products as well as brands such as Giorgio Armani’s EA7 that its rivals, which include Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct, do not supply.
“Our customers tend to be young and the brands they wear are important to them. They believe it gives them status and it’s important to them that they have the latest ranges.”
Most of JD’s 690 stores are in the UK but it is expanding in the Netherlands, Spain, France and Germany in a bid to become Europe’s top sports fashion retailer. JD said its was confident about its expansion plans but that growth was likely to slow from the past two years and profit margins would be affected by the weak euro.
Small said: “If you look around the retail universe, there won’t be many retailers that would expect to get another full year of double-digit like-for-like sales. We are a cautious management team and we don’t want to over promise. It’s a sensible observation rather than a flashing warning light.”
JD said it was making progress in turning around its loss-making outdoor business, which trades under the Millets, Blacks and Ultimate Outdoors brands. The division’s loss narrowed to £4.5m from £5.6m a year earlier.