JJB expands into play areas

JJB Sports, the sports-shop chain run by former Blackburn Rovers footballer David Whelan, is to roll out a chain of out-of-town stores featuring activity areas with basketball hoops and goals manned by cardboard cut-outs of goalkeepers such as Blackburn's Tim Flowers.

Sales at a high-street store featuring an activity area that was opened in Birmingham earlier this month have been stronger than expected. The first out-of-town store will open in Rotherham in July and five more are planned for the year.

"We want to expand aggressively," Mr Whelan said. JJB now has 126 stores and a further 24 will open this year.

Results announced yesterday show the company has comfortably beaten the profit forecast made when it floated in November. For the year to January pre-tax profits rose 66 per cent to £7.59m.

The figures came the day after Olympus Sports, the rival chain owned by Sears, announced losses of £2m.

"We know our market and we don't go into fashion areas where something is hot one month and then disappears," Mr Whelan said.

JJB's sales last year increased across all categories of merchandise, including a 35 per cent jump in the sale of replica shirts. Like-for-like sales increased by 14 per cent over the year and by 28 per cent in the eight weeks since the year-end.

Group sales rose by nearly 50 per cent to £60.5m and there will be a 2p dividend. The shares rose 9p to 287p.