RETAILER JD Sports Fashion announced a reprieve for the Millets brand yesterday as it attempts to revive the Blacks outdoor business that wiped almost £15 million of its profits last year.
The group said the estate of almost 300 Blacks and Millets stores it bought out of administration early in 2012 made a loss of £14.9m in an “exceptionally difficult” year, dragging group profits at JD down 18 per cent to £55.1m despite higher revenues.
But it said the “considerable support and goodwill” shown by customers meant that it no longer intended to ditch the Millets brand in favour of using the Blacks name for all its outdoor clothing stores.
It has closed 122 outdoor stores in the last year as it looks to eliminate a high rent bill, resulting in a portfolio of 174 stores. This will be reduced further to around 140 outlets, ten more than JD originally planned. Around 60 of the survivors will be under the Millets name, which JD views as a good outlet for its own brands Peter Storm and Eurohike, leaving Blacks to concentrate on more specialist and premium products.
JD’s division housing fashion brands Bank and Scotts reported losses of £500,000.
Meanwhile, up-market retailer Burberry posted a 10 per cent rise in fourth-quarter revenue as strong demand for its more expensive products in China helped it beat sales forecasts for the second half of the year.
Shrugging off worries over slowing Chinese growth, Burberry’s core retail arm posted like-for-like sales growth of 7 per cent in the six months to the end of March, compared with City forecasts for 2 to 3 per cent.
Leather handbags, men’s accessories and tailoring all sold well, although the company admitted that footfall remained “soft”, and it had boosted takings with higher prices.