Blacks sales heat up after a boost from the big freeze

OUTDOOR retailer Blacks Leisure has benefited from Britain’s cold snap as it reported a 12 per cent hike in sales.

Blacks, which runs its own brand shops as well as the Millets chain, said it had “significantly enhanced its recovery prospects” after a restructuring with the closure of 87 loss-making stores in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Items that had sold well over the freezing holiday period included its new E Tip Gloves – which allow on-the-go music listeners to operate their iPods without getting their fingers cold.

Thermal underwear and leggings were also flying off the shelves.

The firm said it had enjoyed a “healthy and consistent recovery” in like-for-like sales since securing a new deal with its creditors in November.

In the period from 29 August last year to 7 January the group saw a 12 per cent increase in same-store sales, while over the six week Christmas period the figure was closer to 15 per cent.

Blacks suffered pre-tax losses of £18.1m in the six months to August, as its boardwear division – under the O’Neill banner – dragged the group down.

Chief executive Neil Gillis said: “What had gone wrong with the business was that it had branched out into a sector called boardwear, which is surf clothing, and a lot of what we closed was connected to that.

“The business had diversified. It had got into the wrong kind of markets.” The company also said it was considering an equity fundraising bid in the first quarter of 2010, to raise between £15m and £20m from investors.