JD Sports beats its rival hands – and feet – down


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Raise a glass to Britain’s “other” big sports retailer, the one that largely manages to avoid the sort of negative headlines that plague Sports Direct. While the latter focuses on the cost conscious, JD Sports’s growing band of customers is drawn from among the fashion conscious. Its formula is proving equally effective in domestic and European competition. The recent rash of retail updates have been a mixed bag, but JD’s results put it into the realm of title contender.

The self-described “king of trainers” is living up to its boast. But there’s more to it than that. JD’s bluff boss Peter Cowgill says he’s benefiting from the “casualisation” of Britain. In other words, people are increasingly willing to wear the trendy sportswear and shoes that are JD’s staples when they’re out on the town as well as when they’re out for a run. And why not?

It doesn’t hurt that JD is a lot easier to like that its rival, eschewing the latter’s cynical reliance on zero-hours contracts and steering clear of the crass behaviour that has become Sports Direct’s calling card.

One might quibble a bit about Mr Cowgill’s insistence on operating as an executive chairman. However, he questions how an outside chairman would help his business, and it’s hard to argue with him when he reports revenue rising 21 per cent and profits up by 88 per cent.

He’d only need point to Keith Hellawell’s record as the independent non-executive chairman of Sports Direct if he ever felt the need to strengthen his case.