JD Sports has revealed it expects profits to exceed market expectations despite a marked slowdown in sales growth over the past seven weeks.

However, the sports retailer warned that the Christmas trading period “remains critical to the end result”.

Group like-for-like sales for the cumulative 44-week period to December 1 were up 11.8 per cent. Like-for-likes rose 12.4 per cent at the sports fascias and 2 per cent at the fashion fascias.

In an interim management statement issued today, the board said: “The past seven weeks of this 10-week period have seen a much slower rate of positive performance”.

Separately, JD revealed it had taken a 49 per cent stake in Focus Brands, a vehicle created to acquire branded fashion and footwear design, sourcing and distribution business Focus Group.

JD has invested£49,000 in share capital and£2.5 million in loan notes and guaranteed a£6.5 million bridging loan pending a refinancing of Focus Brands.

JD executive chairman Peter Cowgill said the investment would expand JD's product and brand offering. He said: "By drawing on the management team's expertise and proven success in the development of product and brands, we are confident that this investment will bring financial and strategic beenfits in the future."

JD issue its post-Christmas trading statement update on January 10.