Sports Direct said sales at its new stores “exceed our expectations” amid growing calls for chairman Keith Hellawell to step down at today’s AGM.

The sports retailer said its new-generation flagship stores are performing well and that it would continue to “elevate our store portfolio in the UK and elsewhere” through relocations to smaller-format stores or refurbished flagships.

The retailer said its profit expectations for the current financial year of up to 15% EBITDA growth, which it unveiled in its full-year results in July alongside a nearly 60% pre-tax profit slump, remained unchanged.

Sports Direct has also obtained 100% ownership of premium fashion retailer Flannels after acquiring founder Neil Prosser’s stake in the business.

Chief executive Mike Ashley said that Prosser would “remain an integral part of our premium lifestyle division” and that Flannels would “significantly enhance earnings in our premium lifestyle division in the medium to long term”.

Ashley said the retailer was “fully focused on our strategic goal of moving our core business towards the ‘Selfridges of sport’ in order to further strengthen our proposition and drive long-term profitability”.

“We will continue to build on the positive progress that we have made over the last 12 months, which we outlined during a very constructive meeting with stakeholders in July,” he added.

Today’s AGM

This update comes ahead of the retailer’s annual general meeting, which Ashley will not be attending.

The AGM is set to be a fiery one due to growing appetite among shareholders for Hellawell to resign.

One of the company’s largest independent shareholders, Fidelity International, has said it will vote against Hellawell’s re-election alongside other investors including Legal & General Investment Management.

Hellawell has previously pledged to step down if he does not win a majority of support from independent shareholders at today’s AGM.