Branded sportswear-to-fashion retailer JD Sports Fashion (JD.) skips 6.7% higher to 435.2p as record interims and a positive outlook stoke upgrades. The Lancashire-headquartered retailer's sprightly performance was driven by its core sports stores, which helped group-wide sales grow by more than a quarter.

For the 26 weeks to 2 August, pre-exceptional pre-tax profits doubled to almost £20 million, reflecting brisk business across the sports fascias and 'a significant reduction in losses' in a still-struggling outdoor division. Even exceptional onerous property lease provisions, JD Sport Fashion's taxable profits still increased by £10.4 million to £16.5 million.

Web chart - JD Sports - Sep 14

Group sales at the fully-listed retailer, whose longstanding CEO Barry Bown stepped down in May, sprinted 27% higher to £721.5 million. Executive chairman Peter Cowgill reported 'encouraging progress in the principal areas of the business, notably our UK and European Sports fascias', the retailer's profit growth and cash generation engines and the focus for investment.

Sports operating profits grew by a third to £34.8 million, as fascias including JD shrugged off the England football team's early World Cup exit and branded athletic footwear flew off the shelves at chains including Size?. Despite demanding second half comparatives in the core UK and Ireland sports stores and the dependence on Christmas, Cowgill confidently reckons JD Sports is 'well positioned to deliver results towards the upper end of current market expectations'. Analysts have nudged up profit forecasts accordingly.

Despite strong performances from sports fascias, the fashion and outdoor divisions remain in the red. Operating losses in fashion, which includes the Bank and Ark outlets, burgeoned from £6.8 million to £8.2 million, though the Scotts chain performed well and the division should see a stronger second half as online initiatives and rent reductions kick in. Over in the outdoor business, consisting of the Blacks and Millets chains bought out of administration in 2012, operating losses were curbed from £8.9 million to £5.6 million following prior year restructuring and product range revamps.

Issue Date: 17 Sep 2014