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Blacks Leisure plans more stores

Blacks Leisure, the fast-growing sports retailer, yesterday announced plans to open a further 33 stores this year as it reported a fourfold increase in full-year profits boosted by strong sales during last summer's Euro '96 football championship.

Most of the new openings will be in the First Sport format, with the remainder in the Blacks Outdoor and Active Venture fascias. The company currently has a total of 119 outlets.

Simon Bentley, chairman, said more space in its stores would be devoted to children's ranges. However, he said the company would not follow rival JJB Sports in opening stand-alone stores devoted to younger children.

The company will, however, open a standalone Nike store in Bromley, Kent this year. A flagship First Sport store opened recently in Newcastle with one floor devoted solely to Nike products.

Blacks Leisure profits soared to pounds 10.2m last year, compared to pounds 2.1m in the previous year. Like-for-like sales grew by 21 per cent. Mr Bentley said sales in the three weeks of Euro '96 were very strong.

"Summer '97 will compare to an exceptional trading period last year fuelled by the success of Euro '96. Notwithstanding this we anticipate another very successful year as the programme of store openings and refurbishment programmes progresses," he said.

He declined to say if the huge like-for-like sales increases were sustainable but said the main sports brands such as Nike, Reebok and Adidas were constantly developing new products and supporting them with large advertising spends.

Blacks' share of Fila UK profits was pounds 2.7m compared to just pounds 700,000 in the previous year. In current trading same store sales at First Sport are 17 per cent ahead in the 11 weeks since the 28 February year end. Blacks Outdoor sales are 13 per cent ahead on the same basis.

Blacks Leisure shares, which stood at just 49.5p last year, fell 11p to 516.5p.