JD Sports Fashion is seeing signs of recovery for its struggling Bank chain in line with targets set last year, according to executive chairman Peter Cowgill.
Operating losses in the group’s fashion division increased from £6.8m in the first half of 2013 to £8.2m for the 26 weeks to August 2, 2014.
However, sales at Bank in the second quarter of 2014 were “twice as strong” after improvements were made to its womenswear offer, Cowgill said. He added: “There appears to be green shoots there. It’s always down to a mix of ingredients, but the collection was far stronger in the second quarter.”
He dismissed industry rumours that he was gearing up to sell the young fashion chain: “We will continue to invest in those areas showing signs of growth, like womenswear. Bank will be getting more investment.”
In September 2013, JD announced a turnaround plan for the troubled chain and former JD chief executive Barry Bown said he hoped to see Bank sales beginning to recover by spring
14. Former Reiss trading director Gwynn Milligan was drafted in as managing director in July last year.
Republic co-founder Carl Brewins joined Bank as commercial director last November, but left in May.
Cowgill also said this week that JD’s new menswear concept Open, which already has three stores in Stevenage, Hanley in Stoke-on-Trent and Leeds since its launch in August, has been “well received” by shoppers.
“It’s early days yet but the customer reaction has been positive so far.”
Profit before tax and exceptional items at JD Sports Fashion doubled to £19.9m in the first half of 2014. The outdoor division cut its losses to £5.6m from £8.9m in the first half of 2013, with “considerable progress” made at Blacks and Millets.
Operating profits soared to £34.8m in the sports division from £26.1m last year. Group revenue climbed 27% to £7.2bn, up from £5.7bn in 2013.