A combination of innovative in-store experience and strong brand relationships drove record half-year profits at JD Sports, executive chairman Peter Cowgill told Drapers today.
Profit before tax was up 33% to £102.7m for the 26 weeks to 29 July, as group revenue increased by 41% to £1.4bn.
Cowgill said the company’s reputation of having the latest products keeps customers coming back: “Without sounding arrogant we are the first choice destination for athletic footwear and clothing as the brands want their newest, top tier product in our stores because we are the choice destination for consumers.
“We also respect brands and present their product in the best way. We are the leaders of the pack.”
During the half year, the group opened 12 JD Sports stores (net) in the UK and Ireland, and 23 across Europe.
Cowgill stressed that in-store customer service and experience has been key to its success.
“We have always prided ourselves on the quality and thought put into our shop fits. We are at the forefront of tech innovation in terms of kiosks and digital screens. However it is mainly about presenting product in a clean cut, easily identifiable way.”
JD Sports opened its first four stores in Australia during the period. Cowgill said they were performing well and the group is targeting 30 stores in the market in total.
“If the first one had been a disaster we wouldn’t have opened another three,” he laughed. “There isn’t a set figure on how many we would like to open in Australia over the next year as it is always down to property availability. We have to have the right property in the right location.”
The retailer said the firm remains “open minded” about moving into new territories, but would not be drawn on which markets were on the hitlist.
Cowgill admitted the retail market in the UK is tough, as prices continue to rise following the drop in the value of the pound.
“We focus on micromanagement rather than macro factors; on our own performance [rather than what’s going on with Brexit]. When we are producing positive results it is difficult to see a lot of difference in the marketplace, but I do sense that it is tough. Inbound prices have increased but our average selling price is the same as last year.”
He added that trade should remain steady in the run up to Christmas: “The only sure thing in retail is we don’t know what we will take tomorrow, but there is nothing notable we perceive that will make a massive difference to trade.”