JD Sports and Mountain Warehouse’s festive cheer

SPORTS and outdoor clothing groups JD Sports Fashion and Mountain Warehouse both had sparkling festive trading periods, they revealed in City updates yesterday.

JD Sports saw its shares jump as it said it was now on course to outstrip annual profit expectations. Picture: Lisa McPhillips

JD Sports, whose outdoor brands include Blacks and Millets, and also the Tiso chain in Scotland, saw its shares jump as it said it was now on course to outstrip annual profit expectations.

The group’s same-floorspace sales climbed 12 per cent in the five weeks to 3 January, continuing a trend in the financial year to date, with sales up 12 per cent in the 48-week period.

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JD said that, although it had faced higher overheads to support its growing international arm, its strong trading made it confident that annual underlying pre-tax profits would “exceed the top end of market expectations”.

The City’s previous consensus before yesterday’s update had been for a 17 per cent rise in JD’s profits to £90 million.

Peter Cowgill, JD’s executive chairman, said: “I am delighted to be able to report that the great momentum I reported in the sports fascias in all our territories earlier in the financial year has been maintained during the key Christmas period.”

He said the strong growth came despite tough comparatives with the year before. JD Sports was founded in Bury, Lancashire in 1981, and now has more than 800 stores in six countries.

The group’s lossmaking fashion subsidiary Bank was sold to retail turnaround specialist Hilco last November before falling into administrative receivership earlier this month.

Bank currently has more than 80 stores, including four in Glasgow, two in Edinburgh, and single outlets in Ayr, Clydebank, Dundee, East Kilbride, Falkirk, Inverness and Livingston.

Investec analyst Kate Calvert said JD’s “exceptional” sales performance was driven by its core sports fashion division. She said its outdoor brands arm experienced tougher trading, but sales improved when the weather became colder.

The company said the effect of Black Friday at the end of November brought forward sales. Freddie George, retail guru at broker Cantor Fitzgerald, said: “The trading update is well ahead of our and market expectations due to a knockout performance from the sports retail division.” JD’s shares closed up 6.7 per cent at 508p.

It came as privately-owned Mountain Warehouse revealed it had a record Christmas, with like-for-like sales up 8.4 per cent, involving the sale of 1.2 million outdoor clothing items.

This included 70,000 skiing jackets, 130,000 thermals and 120,000 fleeces. Online sales jumped 36 per cent. The group also opened its 200th store just before Christmas, in Inverness. Mountain said it was helped by Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which combined to create its busiest ever four-day trading period.

Total sales lifted 19 weeks in the six weeks to 4 January. Mark Neale, the company’s chief executive, pictured, said: “I’m hugely pleased with continuing strong performance across all our channels: in our UK stores, online and internationally.”

Mountain has ten stores in Poland and is to open its first outlet in Germany. “Now that winter has finally arrived, we look forward to continuing success in 2015. We believe there is still plenty of life left in the high street,” Neale added. The group opened its first store in 1997, and was bought by founder Neale and his management team in October 2013 in a deal valuing the business at £85m.