Sports Directs sales hike fuelled by World Cup

Sporting goods retailer ports Direct posted an 8.8 per cent rise in first-quarter sales – fuelled by the World Cup in South Africa

The firm, in which Newcastle United club owner Mike Ashley has a 71 per cent stake, said on Tuesday sales were £408m in the 13 weeks to July 25, up from £375m in the same period last year.

Gross profit increased 17.8 per cent to £185m.

"Despite the performance of the England team during the World Cup, these results clearly show that Sports Direct had a good World Cup, although with better team results it could have been even stronger," said the firm.

Sports Direct, which owns Sports World and Lillywhites stores as well as brands including Slazenger, Lonsdale and Dunlop, said that since the end of July its underlying performance has remained strong.

The firm said it was maintaining its target of underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of around £195m for the year to end-April 2011, up from £160.4m made in 2009-10.

Sports Direct fared better than most retailers during the recession thanks to its discount pricing and the weakness of its main rival JJB Sports, which came close to administration in 2009 and is still struggling.

Shares in Sports Direct, which floated at 300 pence in 2007, have increased by 27 per cent over the last year,