Sports Direct had a strong first quarter despite a poor performance from the England team in the football World Cup with sales up 8.8% to £408m in the 13 weeks to July 25.

Gross profit grew 17.8% to £185m for the period with retail sales ahead 11.6% year-on-year to £365m. Retail gross profit also grew, up 20.1% for the sports retailer’s first quarter.

Its brands division however suffered declining sales with revenues down 6.5% to £43m but gross profit was flat at £18m.

Sports Direct chief executive Dave Forsey said: “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. 

“Since the end of July, the Group’s underlying performance has remained strong and in line with management’s expectations, with the Group’s debt reduction programme continuing to perform well.”

He added: “At the preliminary results on July 22, we announced that for the year ended April 25 we had a net debt to underlying EBITDA ratio of 1.9 times. We also said that we would be targeting a range of between one and 1.5 times underlying EBITDA by April 2011.  We are pleased to report that we have already achieved this target.”

During the reporting period Sports Direct opened eight stores in the UK and opened one store in Cyprus.