Sports Direct has revealed sales and gross profits ahead of expectations despite a marked impact on gross margins due to sterling weakness.

In the 13 weeks to January 25, total sales at the sports retailer grew 12 per cent to£355m. Gross profit was slightly ahead of last year at£143m, versus£142m in the same period in 2008.

Sales in the UK division, where the retailer opened 11 new stores and closed 17 during the period, were ahead of expectations according to the retailer and analysts.

The international division’s performance benefited the retailer on account of sterling weakness, because it accounts for its results in both dollars and euros.

The overall currency position for the year remains in profit, it said.

Sports Direct, which revealed the performance in its interim management statement for the period from October 27 to February 17, added that it remained “comfortable” with underlying EBITDA market expectations for the full year of£135m, as outlined at its interim results in December.

Chief executive Dave Forsey said the UK retail division had benefitted from “specific management focus”.

He added that the retailer will “continue to offer great value to our customers, while ensuring effective control of stock levels and costs”.

Singer Capital Markets analyst Matthew McEachran said sales were “considerably” ahead of forecasts for the second half as a whole. He estimated that sales in the UK division grew 8 – 10 per cent.

“The primary reason for this out-performance was a strong uplift in UK retail sales, where specific management focus (and their back to basics approach) resulted in a sales uplift ahead of management’s own internal expectation," he said.

He added that he believed gross margins fell around 400 basis points, “more than expected”.