JJB enjoys an uplift in sales for Christmas

 
Kasmira Jefford
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SPORTS retailer JJB, which was on the verge of collapse last year, has battled its way through the crucial Christmas period, reporting a five per cent lift in like-for-like sales in December.

JJB’s second-half like-for-like sales fell by 7.8 per cent while margins fell by 3.2 per cent, it said yesterday.

But this was still an improvement compared to a dire first half, when sales slumped by 17.7 per cent slump and margins dived by 31.7 per cent.

Chief executive Keith Jones, who was parachuted in almost two years ago to turn around the retailer, said: “Our overall trading has improved in the second half of the financial year and we achieved a Christmas trading performance broadly in line with our expectations in the face of an extremely challenging consumer environment.”

The Wigan-based firm was rescued from administration by a deal with its landlords in March – the second in two years – which allowed it to close 43 poorly performing stores and cut rent payments by as much as 55 per cent on others.

The company is banking on a number of critical trading periods, including the January sales, European football championships and London Olympics, to get back on track.

JJB, which employs 4,600 people and runs 195 stores across the UK and Ireland, faces stiff competition from rivals like Sports Direct, which has fared better in the current climate.

The group’s better-than-expected sales cheered the market yesterday, sending shares soaring 37.5 per cent to 7.7p.