Monday 14 January 2019 7:59 am

JD Sports eyes strong profits thanks to international expansion

JD Sports today said it expects full-year profits to hit the higher end of its targets as international growth helped defy tough retail conditions.

The sports retailer reported total sales growth of 15 per cent in the 48 weeks to 5 January, with like-for-like sales up five per cent in the same period.

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JD Sports opened two stores in Thailand in the second half, as well as its first five US branches, three of which came from the conversion of existing Finish Line stores.

The firm said it is confident its full-year profit before tax will be at the higher end of market expectations, which currently range from £325m to £352m.

The company, which owns outdoor clothing retailers Blacks and Go Outdoors, said like-for-like trading during Black Friday and the festive period was positive.

JD Sports said its policy not to enter into short-term discounting helped maintain profit margins and defy challenges in the wider retail market.

Executive chairman Peter Cowgill said: “I am pleased with the continued progress of the group both in terms of our performance in existing markets and the recent positive developments in the United States.

“We are confident that domestically and internationally, in stores and online, our unique and often exclusive sports fashion premium brand offer provides a solid foundation for future development.”

The retailer said it has completed the first phase of works for a 352,000 square feet (sq ft) extension to its main warehouse in Rochdale. It said the redevelopment has led to labour cost inefficiencies, but it does not expect these to impact full-year profits.

The positive update comes amid a challenging time for rival chain Sports Direct, whose owner, Mike Ashley, is embroiled in disputes over his stakes in department stores House of Fraser and Debenhams.

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Retail analyst Nick Bubb said: “JD Sports must be delighted that their main rival, Sports Direct, is getting badly entangled with and diverted by House of Fraser/Debenhams, given the revelation in the weekend press that Mike Ashley offered to stand down as boss of Sports Direct so that he could take over as the boss of Debenhams instead.”

Shares in JD Sports rose more than eight per cent this morning, while Sports Direct saw its share price fall almost three per cent.