Blacks mulls more store openings as profits soar

Blacks Leisure is considering opening out-of-town stores as it accelerates expansion, following a surge in profits.

The retailer said it plans to add 30 shops this year across its 379-store outdoor division, comprising Blacks, Millets, Free Spirit and Just Add Water.

More O'Neill stores, of which Blacks owns the UK distribution rights and operates 15 outlets, are also planned.

'We would look at out-of-town locations for either Blacks or Millets, but it depends on what sites we find,' said Blacks managing director, outdoor, Terry Maywood.

Blacks confirmed it would consider buying another chain to fuel expansion, but would not divulge further details.

The retailer is understood to have been interested in Snow + Rock last year.

With 16 per cent market share in both boardwear and outdoor sectors, Maywood believes there is potential for significant growth in what is a fragmented market.

Investec analysts noted it was possible that space growth could exceed expectations, because Dixons' 100 store closures may open up ideal sites, especially for Millets.

'As a niche operator with leading positions and few threats, we remain optimistic about Blacks' prospects,' said analyst Investec.

For the year to February 29, Blacks posted a 26 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to£17.9 million on sales of£255.5 million, from£217.9 million a year ago.

The present year started well and was boosted by wet weather, which led shoppers to buy waterproof clothing. Same-store sales were up 5.3 per cent in the first eight weeks to April 24.