Sports Direct workers celebrate record profits

ANOTHER record-breaking profits haul from retail chain Sports Direct kept its staff on track for a fresh bonus windfall.

Mike Ashley has locked horns with lobbyists and the IoD. Picture: Getty

The group reported a 16 per cent jump in pre-tax profits to £239.5 million for the year to 27 April, clearing another hurdle under a 2011 four-year share incentive bonus scheme for around 3,000 staff.

If the figure beats £300m in 2015, shop floor workers will be awarded 34 million shares in a payout worth an average £80,000 at today’s prices.

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A scheme last year awarded a typical worker shares worth £68,000, while majority owner Mike Ashley surprised the City this week when he waived his participation in a new £180m version, with targets up to 2019. His role in the scheme came under fire from investor lobby groups and the

Institute of Directors despite winning support from a majority of shareholders.

Sports Direct said the performance of the group has gone from “strength to strength” since the bonus scheme was launched in September 2009.

It said: “The high level of rewards for eligible participants has also proven key to employee retention, and we credit a great deal of our continued success to our loyal workforce.”

Despite the latest profits record, the company has not paid a dividend to shareholders as it wants to keep its options open for growth opportunities.

The group, which owns brands including Dunlop, Karrimor and Slazenger and has 418 UK stores, racked up revenues of £2.7 billion in the year, an increase of 23.8 per cent on a year earlier. The growth was primarily in retail.

Overall trading since the year-end has been in line with expectations, but with some stronger weeks offset by England’s disappointing World Cup.

Greg Bromley, a retail analyst at consultancy Conlumino, said Sports Direct had delivered “another barnstorming set of results”.

He added: “Progress continues to be underpinned by solid levels of domestic growth, a widening brand and fashion presence, and a burgeoning store portfolio globally.”