Amid the turmoil in sports retail over the past few years one retailer stands out for its prowess on the pitch – JD Sports.
Last week, in an unscheduled update, JD reported that full-year profits are now expected to come in about 10% ahead of previous expectations.
It has achieved success in part by setting itself up as almost the polar opposite of Sports Direct.
While Ashley’s business has sometimes had a fractious relationship with suppliers, as when Adidas said it would stop Sports Direct from selling Chelsea replica shirts a couple of years back, JD has adopted a partnership approach.
JD’s canny boss Peter Cowgill flagged its importance when he unveiled prelims in April.
Perhaps taking a sideswipe at Sports Direct he said: “We believe that our collaborative approach to working with third-party brands to create a unique, premium and often exclusive offer is a major contributor to our success.
“We have the utmost respect for the brands that we sell and believe in working in partnership with them to achieve their ambitions.”
Similarly while Sports Direct sometimes seems to adopt a jumble sale-style attitude to its stores – and that may even be part of its appeal – JD aims to deliver “market leading standards of visual merchandising and disciplines in-store” to create retail theatre.
Last week’s upgrade came even though JD said that internationally it had suffered a margin hit at its euro denominated business.
But there seems no fundamental reason to doubt its potential to build successful overseas operations and international growth remains a key objective.
JD will post first-half results in mid-September.
Its shares have risen strongly over the past three months but broker Peel Hunt believes there is plenty more to go for and raised its target price from 800p to 1000p following the latest update.
In retail’s equivalent of the Ashes, it looks as if JD will continue to score runs against the mighty Sports Direct.