JD Sports is on track to register earnings “at the upper end” of market expectations after hailing “further significant progress” during the Christmas trading period.

The athleisure specialist said it maintained gross profit margins in its core UK business despite the “well-publicised challenges” within the market.

JD steered clear of “short-term reactive discounting” during the crucial golden quarter and said it was “pleased” with trading during the period.

The retailer added that total sales in its international division – excluding the recent acquisitions of Finish Line in the US and Sport Zone in Iberia – grew 15% during the 48 weeks to January 5.

Like-for-like growth overseas came in at more than 5%, JD said, driven by “consistently positive” growth across Black Friday and Christmas.

JD expects full-year pre-tax profit to be “at the upper end” of market expectations, which range from £325m to £352m. It will unveil preliminary results for the year ending February 2 on April 16.

JD executive chairman Peter Cowgill said: “I am pleased with the continued progress of the group both in terms of our performance in existing markets and the recent positive developments in the United States.

“We are confident that domestically and internationally, in stores and online, our unique and often exclusive sports fashion premium brand offer provides a solid foundation for future development.”