England failure adds to gloom at JJB Sports

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The Independent Online

JJB Sports, Britain's largest sportswear retailer, revealed yesterday that a hoped-for boost to sales from Euro 2004 had failed to halt its decline in revenues, sending its shares down 15p to 259p.

JJB Sports, Britain's largest sportswear retailer, revealed yesterday that a hoped-for boost to sales from Euro 2004 had failed to halt its decline in revenues, sending its shares down 15p to 259p.

Revenues from stores that have been open at least a year fell 1.3 per cent in the six months to 4 July. The Wigan-based company said the trend was more encouraging than its performance at the start of the year, when like-for-like turnover had slumped nearly 6 per cent.

"The results since 4 April have shown some improvement, particularly in the sales of replica shirts and other products related to the Euro 2004 tournament," the company said.

But the upturn failed to impress the market. Analysts said the company was still trading in a very competitive environment, and that it was still at the mercy of changes in the weather, which affects shoppers' appetite for hitting the high street.

JJB said it would continue to roll out its new strategy of combining stores selling sportswear on the ground floor with health clubs on the floor above. It plans to add 21 combined stores by the end of January 2006 to the 18 already operating, each of which is earning almost £1m a year. It will also open 18 large stores outside town centres.

David Whelan, the chairman, said: "Competition remains strong, but I believe our strategies and the opportunities in the leisure division will lead to growth over the next few years." Mr Whelan, who founded the company in 1978 and built it into a chain which controls a large chunk of the sports retailing market, has suffered a series of setbacks. As well as an increase in competition, JJB was also ordered to hand over £8.4m last year after an investigation by the Office of Fair Trading into allegations it had, with other retailers, the Football Association and Manchester United, operated a cartel to fix the price of replica shirts. JJB is still appealing against the decision.

The City fell out of love with the company when it decided to add the discount retailer TJ Hughes to its stable for £42m. JJB sold the business to its management last year.

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