Blacks wilts as heat, Glastonbury and World Cup hit home

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Blacks Leisure blamed Glastonbury's absence from this year's festival circuit, the first World Cup to be played in a UK-friendly time zone in eight years and the sunshine for a profit warning that knocked 11 per cent off its share price yesterday.

Russell Hardy, the chief executive, said the plethora of other music and arts festivals that has sprung up around the country had failed to compensate for the lack of Glastonbury, which draws crowds of around 100,000.

"We do very well out of Glastonbury. People buy their tent for Glastonbury and often don't bother to take it home with them afterwards, even if they're going to another three or four festivals. Remember last year's [muddy] Glastonbury pictures? Once tents get that wet, very few people take them home," Mr Hardy said.

Shares in Blacks Leisure, which also owns the family-focused Millets chain, tumbled 60p to 490p after the company warned its interim profits would be below last year's. Analysts at Investec Securities cut their full-year pre-tax profit forecast by 6 per cent to £23m, while Numis Securities sliced their forecast by 11 per cent to £20.5m.

During the World Cup, dads were glued to their - new - television sets and did not take their families camping, according to Mr Hardy. Campsites suffered and so did Blacks, which relies on camping-related products and footwear for half of its turnover during the summer, he added. Heatwaves are also bad for business, apparently.

The disappointing camping season comes weeks after Mr Hardy claimed sleeping in tents was back in vogue, helped by some fashion and interior designers launching camping ranges. Millets sells tents designed by Cath Kidson and Ted Baker, prompting camping pundits to coin a new term: "glamping" - shorthand for glamorous camping.

In the 20 weeks to 15 July, like-for-like sales fell 1 per cent, which Blacks said was disappointing. The company, which said its gross margins were flat, expects trading to pick up during its second half when wet and cold weather drives sales of its raingear.

There was better news from Laura Ashley, which has been on an improving trend since Lillian Tan joined as the chief executive last year. The company said it would report an interim profit of £2.5m to £3m compared with losses of £200,000 last year after its sales continued to strengthen. Its shares rose 0.5p to 24.75p.