• Preliminary profits rocket 57%
  • ‘Exceptional year’ at core sports fashion division
  • ‘Pleasing progress’ at loss-making outdoors division

JD Sports has posted a healthy rise in full-year earnings and is confident of continued momentum helped by growth in Europe. 

The retailer reported that pre-tax profit before exceptionals surged 57% to £157.1m in the year to January 30. Sales rose 20% to £1.82bn.

JD Sports’ performance was powered by an “exceptional year” at its core sports fashion division, which has been expanding overseas.

The sports fashion business recorded like-for-like store sales “in excess of 10%” as it “successfully exploited the buoyant market for branded athletic footwear and apparel” in the UK and Europe.

The group has also converted its Oxford Street, Glasgow and Newcastle shops to a new superstore concept, which has driven sales.

JD Sports executive chairman Peter Cowgill said: “Given that last year’s result was a record for our group then the performance in the year was very pleasing, further demonstrating the increasing influence of the JD fascia in the UK and beyond.

“During the year we have expanded our international presence with additional stores in existing European territories together with a number of stores in new countries.

“We continue to gain traction in Europe and are confident of the opportunities that exist for the JD fascia in these markets.”

Last month JD completed a €26.5m (£20.9m) deal to acquire beleaguered Dutch chains Perry Sport and Aktiesport from Unlimited Sports Group.

Cowgill added: “We are encouraged by the continued positive trading across our core fascias in the year to date and the board continues to believe that the group is very well positioned for profitable growth.”

At JD Sports’ outdoors division, which includes fascias such as Blacks and Millets, Cowgill reported “pleasing progress” as its operating loss before exceptionals was cut from £7.1m to £4m.

Cowgill told Retail Week that “better brand relations, stock disciple and cost control” had helped drive the turnaround at the two chains.Despite merging some of the management teams of the two chains, he said that both will continue to trade under two separate fascias. “We are keeping the two alive as they stand for different things,” he said.

Cowgill added: “We are striving for further improvements in margins in this year as the merchandising and commercial disciplines increasingly align themselves with the core JD team.”