Clothing retailer to expand international presence after buying Finish Line chain in US

JD Sports has upgraded its profit outlook following strong Christmas sales, and is stepping up its expansion in the US, where it has opened its first five stores.

Britain’s biggest sports retailer has been riding the athleisure boom – sportswear designed to be worn outside the gym – which has helped it avoid the collapse in fashion sales seen in other parts of the high street. Retailers are battling against rising rents and business rates, a shift to online shopping and waning consumer confidence.

JD said like-for-like sales rose more than 5% in the 48 weeks to 5 January, up from 3% in the first half, while total sales (including newly opened shops) surged 15%. It said like-for-like sales were “consistently” positive over the Black Friday and festive period.

JD, which also owns Blacks, Millets, Size and Go Outdoors, expects profits for the year to 2 February to hit the top end of analysts’ forecasts, which range from £325m to £352m, against £295m the previous year. It has 2,180 shops worldwide, including 390 in the UK and Ireland.

The retailer credited its decision not to follow rivals into big price cuts, which kept gross profit margins at the previous year’s levels. Its smaller rival Footasylum, the footwear and hoodie chain, issued a profit warning last week, which it blamed on tough trading Christmas conditions that prompted it to slash prices more than expected.

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