But N Brown, Sports Direct and Thorntons hail profit

A TRIO of retailers yesterday defied the high street gloom by hailing rising profits.

Sports Direct is “certain” it will hit full-year profit forecasts, while chocolate retailer Thorntons thinks its earnings haul will be “substantially” ahead of City expectations and High & Mighty-owner N Brown has increased its full-year dividend.

In a trading update ahead of its full-year results, Sports Direct revealed profits were up by 22.7 per cent over the nine weeks to 31 March to £128.6 million, on the back of a 14.3 per cent rise in sales to £317.4m.

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Chief executive Dave Forsey is “certain” the firm will reach its full-year profits target of £270m and confirmed that about 2,000 staff will receive shares worth 75 per cent of their base salary in August under an incentive plan.

Sports Direct has benefited from the collapse of rival JJB, as well as a shift into higher-priced goods and an online sales push.

N Brown – which owns brands including Fig Leaves, House of Bath and Simply Be – also grew its online business, helping total revenues at the catalogue shop specialist to rise by 6 per cent to £784.7m.

Adjusted profits edged up by 2.6 per cent to £96.4m, allowing the company to hike its total dividend by 5 per cent to 13.68p.

Thortons’ turnaround continued with “strong” third-quarter results. Its sales in the 14 weeks to 20 April were up 4 per cent to £60.6m, including Valentine’s day, mother’s day and Easter.

Chief executive Jonathan Hart said: “Although we are cautious about current economic conditions, the board is now confident that pre-exceptional profit before tax for the full year to 29 June will be substantially ahead of the current market expectation, with the potential for further improvement in the final quarter.”