Sports Direct hits bonus goal as JJB struggles

Marion Dakers
SPORTS Direct won a game of two halves on the high street yesterday, with a flair for discounting and online retail helping it trounce sales at ailing rival JJB Sports, which made a plea for fresh funding.

Sports Direct, controlled by billionaire Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, yesterday said its underlying pre-tax profit rose 17.3 per cent to £162.1m in the year to 29 April.

The retailer said group revenue jumped 13 per cent to £1.83bn, thanks in part to an 82 per cent surge in online sales to £174m.

Around 3,000 staff at the firm are in line for share awards after it surpassed “super stretch” earnings targets.

Ashley himself is in line for 8m shares, worth £23m at current prices but not due to vest until 2018, if the company keeps up its strong performance through to 2015.

Shares fell 1.4 per cent, however, as some investors were disappointed at the lack of dividend news and a slight margin squeeze.

JJB Sports, meanwhile, said it had seen poor sales of football kits, partly due to wet weather keeping shoppers off the high street, leading like-for-like sales down 8.7 per cent in the 24 weeks to 15 July.

The firm’s directors said the headwinds facing the business are putting its turnaround strategy in peril. JJB remains in talks with partners to bring forward a cash injection.