Sports retailer defies odds to increase sales

Caitlin Morrison
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SPORTS Direct managed to shrug off a year of bad press surrounding its use of zero-hours contracts, as well as England’s early exit from the World Cup, to increase revenue and profit in the 12 months to April 2015.

Group revenue rose by 4.7 per cent to £2.83bn, from £2.71bn in 2014, helped by its sports retail and brands sectors, which rose 5.5 per cent and 4.1 per cent respectively. Underlying profit before tax rose 20.5 per cent to £300m.

The Mike Ashley-owned retailer, which recently branched out into the gym business, was forced to operate without a finance chief for much of the year, and raised eyebrows after buying stakes in Debenhams and Tesco. That came on top of England’s early departure from the Football World Cup in Rio and warm weather which discouraged high street shopping.

Chief executive Dave Forsey told City A.M. the group’s performance in the face of these headwinds made the results even more positive: “It just shows what a great business we have.”

The company has come under fire for its use of zero-hours contracts which do not guarantee employees work. It used yesterday’s results announcement to hit back, saying the criticism it received was “unfounded and inaccurate”.

Forsey added: “This time of year is a great example of why the casual workforce works so well for us as well as other retailers. The students looking for summer jobs can pick up work and working parents who need to take time off find it easier.”