Sports Direct moved up the City’s retail league after striking a deal with Chinese retailer ITAT.

The UK retailer will sell its wares in shop-in-shops in ITAT’s 120 Super Club stores, investing up to£20 million in the venture between now and April 2009.

Sports Direct chief executive Dave Forsey said international development was a key element of company strategy and the deal represented an “ideal opportunity” to enter one of the world’s biggest consumer markets.

The retailer was helped by a positive note from Oriel Securities analyst Jonathan Pritchard, who visited its headquarters recently. He upgraded his stance from hold to buy and said, despite grounds for criticism of Sports Direct, “it is time for a change of heart”.

He added: “Our due diligence has shown that business controls are firmly in place and the retail model is sound.”