LUCKY for JD Sports that rival JJB went into administration at the end of last year. That helped it to score a 7.5 per cent increase in like-for-like sports sales in the UK and Ireland in the first half, with group profit before tax up 111 per cent to £6.1m.
Without it, these results could look rather different, with more attention on the declining margins and mounting operating losses on its fashion and outdoor divisions.
The outdoor problem is easy to understand: having acquired Blacks and Millets in January 2012 with the plan of merging them, the retailer found that didn’t work and has been forced to retain both. The initial chaos over stock levels should have resolved itself next time around, and they may break even in the second half. But it is an open question how profitable running the brands separately will prove in the long term.
Fashion looks more hopeful near-term, with revenues growing and better margins than outdoor. It had a rotten six months, with like-for-like fashion sales in the UK and Ireland excluding premium down 2.2 per cent. But if the new fashion MD Gwynn Milligan brings her experience at Asos and Reiss to bear, all that could quickly change.
Sport remains the name of the game though, at 73 per cent of revenue. With Sports Direct rising and the JJB effect spent, it’s all to play for in the second half.