Blacks’ losses mount as it eyes funding

OUTDOOR goods specialist Blacks leisure yesterday announced a half-year loss of £16m and said it was examining its funding options in a bid to shore up the struggling firm.

The company, which also trades under the Millets brand, is fighting for survival due to mounting losses and surging debts.

The pre-tax loss for the six months to 27 August compared with £7.2m in the same period last year.

Sales at stores open for at least a year fell seven per cent to £81.1m, while stock levels were cut by 28 per cent.

Chief executive Julia Reynolds said: “We don’t have any exact figures or date [for the funding], but we are working on that currently.”

Blacks, which went through a restructuring under former chief executive Neil Gillis, streamlined its property portfolio last year by exiting more than 100 stores.

The company currently operates about 300 outlets. It has been involved in a long-running spat with its largest shareholder Mike Ashley, the founder of rival firm Sports Direct, whose bid for Blacks was rejected last year.

New chairman Peter Williams, the former chief executive of Selfridges, said yesterday that Blacks is not currently in talks with anyone over a potential takeover.

He added that the company was well placed to receive a sales boost over Christmas.

But Charles Stanley retail analyst Sam Hart said: “Discounting and margin pressure remain rife in the outdoors sector. Blacks and Millets both remain poorly positioned for now. We continue to see limited scope for the group’s return to profitability.”