Sportswear chain JD Sports has given the high street a boost with a hike in profits ahead of the key Easter trading period.
The group revealed better-than-expected full-year results with £38.2?million pre-tax profits, and said it was expecting the Easter holidays to deliver a two per cent boost.
Retail experts say stores are bracing themselves for a busy weekend, as people use their holidays to embark on shopping trips.
The company told investors that like-for-likes at its 450 stores, including in the Bullring, Sutton Coldfield and West Bromwich, were up 0.3 per cent in the year to date but are set to soar this weekend.
The firm said its nine per cent rise in annual pre-tax profits to marked the “fifth successive year of good progress” for JD.
JD’s results featured write-downs of exceptional items valued at £16.3?million, including a £6.1?million impairment of its investment in troubled rival JJB Sports.
A spokesman said: “The sports fascias’ strong performance in recent years with regards to like-for-like sales and gross margins means that further improvement in these areas is increasingly challenging. Nevertheless the new year has started satisfactorily.”
JD has fared better than rivals such as JJB and Sports Direct because it had less reliance on replica football kit sales, which were hit by the failure of the England team to qualify for last summer’s European Championships.
JJB is currently hoping to persuade landlords and lenders to sign up to a company voluntary agreement to ease its rent burden and shoring up its finances.
JD’s sports offering saw revenue increase five per cent last year, to £571.8?million and group sales increased by 13.3 per cent to £670.9?million.
A spokesman for broker Singer Capital Markets said the profit results were “well ahead of expectations”. He added: “Overall these figures are excellent and should ripple through to more upgrades.”
The broker predicted upgrades to the market’s January 2010 forecasts by around six per cent and said JD should be able to look forward to benefiting from the World Cup next year.
Bullring general manager Tim Walley agreed retailers were set for a boost in Easter trading.
The centre saw a fall in footfall of less than one per cent last year, and sales actually rose, while signs for Easter look positive.
He said: “We are not comparing like for like this Easter, because it was earlier last year, but we had 120,000 through the door on Tuesday, which is enormous, and it will build throughout the week.
“Easter is a key period for us. There are more families around at the moment and industry stops on Friday, so we are expecting a big weekend.”