JD Sports Fashion has reported a step up in like-for-like sales growth over Christmas, aided by a strong performance in its core sports arm.

JD said trading in the six weeks to January 4 had been positive and reported like-for-likes over Christmas were “marginally ahead” of the 5.8% like-for-like growth it reported in its first half.

In November, the retailer reported that sales for the first 42 weeks of its financial year to November 23 were tracking at “very much the same level” as the 5.8% like-for-like growth reported in its first half.

It said underlying gross margins were “largely maintained” and full-year pre-tax profits will be in line with current market expectations.

JD executive chairman Peter Cowgill said: “Christmas 2013 has seen yet another very robust performance from our core sports fascias. Throughout recent years of considerable change and expansion for the Group, the core sports fascias’ proposition has continued to be developed and enhanced.

“I am delighted that the most recent six weeks’ trading has continued to give confidence for the future. I also expect considerable further progress elsewhere in the group in 2014.”

Investec analyst Kate Calvert said: “We suspect core JD performed better than the implied run-rate. It is in the fortunate position that it has a high proportion of exclusive product, which isolates the business to an extent from all the promotional activity.

“In contrast, we suspect fashion continued to have a difficult time, given how promotional the high street was, and Blacks’ trading very much went with the weather. The weather in the first three weeks of December was not ideal and different to last year, though the wet weather post Christmas has probably been helpful.”