Blacks' sales rise but margins fall

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The Independent Online

Blacks Leisure, the outdoor clothing and equipment retailer, unveiled sales growth yesterday of more than 14 per cent over the Christmas period and the first two weeks of January, but conceded profit margins had fallen.

Blacks Leisure, the outdoor clothing and equipment retailer, unveiled sales growth yesterday of more than 14 per cent over the Christmas period and the first two weeks of January, but conceded profit margins had fallen.

Total retail sales rose by 14.2 per cent over the eight weeks to 15 January, and by 16.4 per cent over the past 20 weeks. However, its gross margin fell by one percentage point from a year ago.

Blacks, the UK's largest outdoor retailer, said pre-tax profits for its fiscal year to the end of March would be in line with analysts' expectations.

Russell Hardy, the chief executive, said sales were strong just before Christmas but added: "Stock clearance activity, particularly in Boardwear, and weak trading in O'Neill have led to the reduction in margin for the half-year to date." The shares fell yesterday 2.5p to 474p, giving the group a market value of £196m.

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