Profit-before-tax excluding exceptional items at JD Sports Fashion rose 24% to £53.6 million for the year to January 31, with like-for-like sales up 3.9% over the period.
JD Sports Fashion said like-for-like sales at its JD sportswear fascia were up 3.3% while the fashion division, which includes the Bank and Scotts chains, recorded a 7.9% uplift.
“We’ll just keep doing what we have been. We don’t really focus on what anyone else is doing, we just do what we do. This week has been good suggesting that Easter will be good.”
Barry Bown, chief executive, JD Sports Fashion
The group’s total sales rose 13.3% to £670.8m over the year. JD Sports Fashion’s gross margin improved from 49.2% to 49.3% over the period.
JD Sports Fashion chief executive Barry Bown said that the strong performance was largely down to differentiation of product and a focused team.
“We’ve stuck to our strategy which is to have as much differentiation as possible from a product perspective,” said Bown.
”Our team is continuing to work with brands to have product you can’t get anywhere else. We try to present brands in the best possible way and have been expanding our merchandising team. We also have our own labels, especially McKenzie, which are also doing well.”
Bown said that JD Sports Fashion had also been able to avoid having price promotions because of its exclusive product, which reduced direct competition with high street competitors.
For the nine weeks to April 4, like-for-like sales rose 0.3% - up 3.6% across the fashion fascias, but down 0.2%at the sports chain. However this year’s figures do not include the Easter trading period, which Bown said would have made the figures more like a 2% to 3% like-for-like increase for the group.
The company said that its new discount fashion online operation Getthelabel.com had got off to a positive start, and would be backed up by a print marketing campaign in the next few weeks..
Bown said: “There aren’t really many operators that do that kind of thing. The obvious one is M and M Direct, but we’d like to get a share of that market.”
JD Sports Fashion also confirmed that it had bought the Duffer of St George fashion brand, which it will launch into its JD and Scotts stores in the autumn.
Duffer of St George designer Marco Cairns has stayed on in the design director role at the brand but Bown said that the brand would feature an “updated cut”.
He said. “It was a great brand in its day. It will be competitively priced and sit somewhere a bit below Fred Perry on pricing.”
A T-shirt will retail at £15 to £20, with a hooded top between £40 to £50.
Bown added that the group’s Rivington own label is now sold only in Bank, while its Brook Haven brand will be phased out of JD stores to be sold only in Scotts, to give both chains even more exclusive product.
JD Sports Fashion will look to take advantage of opportunities in the market to expand its operations, especially its fashion chains, according to Bown.
The group wants to grow Bank, which ly currenthas 54 stores, to around 100 stores. Bown said that JD Sports Fashion would accelerate its store opening plans to open 20 more Bank stores this year, more than three times the number it opened last year.
He added that the economic downturn meant that there were more stores and locations available. However, he said that he was not interested in picking up any of JJB Sports’ closed stores or its Original Shoe Company and Qube stores, to expand its own portfolio.
“We’re not interested in shops that someone else hasn’t been able to make work,” said Bown.
Bown said that the devaluation of the sterling had not impacted the business so far but conceded it was likely to push up the cost of sourcing its own label product. However, he said that the business would try to absorb the extra costs rather than pass it on to the consumer.
Bown said that he was “cautiously confident” about the rest of the year. “We’ll just keep doing what we have been. We don’t really focus on what anyone else is doing, we just do what we do. This week has been good suggesting that Easter will be good.”