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Blacks drops prices to pep up its sales

Blacks Leisure Group has cut prices on core items at its Millets chain by up to a third, to help boost sales after a slump in profits.

The company has slashed prices at Millets by between 25% and 30% as part of an attempt to beat its value competitors and supermarkets. Some breathable jackets are down from £40 to £30, while shorts have dropped from £15 to £10.

Chief executive Russell Hardy said it was now offering its "best ever" prices. "We are pushing the message that we offer great value, and are becoming more competitive across clothing and equipment," he said. "We are also weatherproofing our offer, with lighter and more breathable fabrics to cope better with warmer and drier weather."

He said the business planned to revamp a further 60 Millets stores, after sales rose an average of 10% at the six stores refitted this year, including branches at Newbury in Berkshire and King's Lynn in Norfolk.

The retailer said unseasonably warm weather had affected the start of the new financial year, but that summer product had helped boost like-for-like sales, which rose 0.8% for the eight weeks to April 28. Hardy added that the return of the Glastonbury Festival would help to boost summer sales.

Hardy said he planned to double the 45-store Freespirit portfolio over the next four years. Although like-for-likes for the year to March 3 were down 2.7%, he added that the year-old Freespirit own-brand had helped to push sales into positive territory since then.

In March, Blacks Leisure began negotiations with suppliers for tougher terms, including an extra 30 days' credit and a 5% discount (Drapers, March 10).

BLACKS LEISURE AT A GLANCE

- The group posted a £13.8 million loss for the year to March 3, including a £13.9m charge for closing 45 stores

- Like-for-like sales down 2.7%

- Total turnover up 0.3% to £298.3m.

- Online sales grew from 1.2% to 2% of total sales

- Like-for-likes up 0.8% for the eight weeks to April 28

- 29.4% stake owned by Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley

- Explorer Ranulph Fiennes to consult on product development.

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