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JD Sports boss Cowgill ‘optimistic’ for US domination

JD Sports Fashion’s executive chairman Peter Cowgill has said he is hopeful for success in the US, as the retailer becomes “an iconic player in the worldwide sports fashion market”, following another set of record financial results. 

Peter Cowgill

Peter Cowgill

Last month the Bury-based retailer entered into an agreement to buy US sportswear retailer The Finish Line, in a deal worth around $558m (£396m).

Cowgill told Drapers he plans to convert The Finish Line stores into JD Sports fascias: “We will convert some stores to JD on a trial basis and see how it goes.

“We identified that if we were to be seen as a truly global player we needed to be in the US, as it is the heartland for athletic-inspired footwear. We’ve done our homework over there and we’re optimistic it will work.”

The Finish Line has 556 stores across 44 US states and in Puerto Rico, as well as online. It also operates athletic footwear in department store chain Macy’s.

JD Sports’ profit before tax and exceptional items up 26% year on year to £244.8m for the year to 3 February, while revenue was up 33% to £3.1bn. Operating profit before exceptional items was up 25% compared with 2017 to £308.8m. Like-for-like store sales were up 3% for the year, while like-for-like online sales increased by more than 30%.

Cowgill said the success of the business was down to “strong customer experience and strong brand relationships.”

“We have increasing recognition that JD is the preferred home for all aspirational sport and fashion brands.

“We are seen as the main connector between brands and consumers, and new fashion brands continue to approach us. We have nurtured new brands and ranges from the likes of Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein as well as our core sportswear labels.” 

During the year the retailer opened a net 56 stores across Europe, a further nine in the Asia-Pacific region, and its first stores in Australia.

Since year end the business has opened its first shop in South Korea.

Cowgill said the business continues to look for new international opportunities on a “case by case” basis. 

In the UK Cowgill admitted the market was difficult but did not predict a slowdown in JD’s growth: “The UK is a tough market, there’s no question about it. We’re observing what’s happening with interest but we can only keep fighting for our own cause. That’s all we can do.”


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