Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley’s world-famous Lillywhites business has nearly doubled pre-tax profits after taking a more ambitious approach to pricing.

Figures filed at Companies House for the year to April 29 last year, showed pre-tax profit had rocketed from£4.7 million to£8.2 million.

In its report, management said an increase in gross margin, from 32.3 per cent to 40.3 per cent, was a result of changes to Lillywhites’ pricing policy.

It added that further growth in turnover and gross margin improvements were expected this year as the business continues to focus on margin enhancement.

Lillywhites is likely to play a key part in Ashley’s international expansion plans. Industry observers believe the Lillywhites brand will work better abroad than Ashley’s Sports Direct fascia, because it is recognised globally as a specialist sports retailer. Lillywhites is understood to be preparing to launch in the Middle East and South Africa.

Separately, Ashley hosted Pali International analyst Nick Bubb at its head office in Shirebrook on Tuesday. Bubb said the tycoon has “embarked on a charm offensive in recent weeks, picking off his critics one by one”.

Bubb found the warehouse impressive and said Ashley is “an expert on the logistics of the business”. The joint venture deal in China, announced earlier this month, to supply own-label products to Super Club stores could become a big long-term profit earner, according to Bubb.

However, he said: “The UK remains a challenging market and this year doesn’t look like it will be better. I still think the shares are worth no more than 79p at the moment.”