JJB Sports chain to close 72 stores

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JJB Sports revealed another major blow to the high street today after it said it was shutting 72 stores with the loss of around 800 jobs.

Details of the closure move emerged a day after discount clothing chain Ethel Austin went into administration and figures from the British Retail Consortium showed the first monthly sales drop for nearly two years.

Wigan-based JJB, which has more than 400 outlets, began implementing the closure plan earlier this year after a business review by new management.

It said the stores in question were unlikely to make any "significant contribution" to group profits and that many were already close to newer and larger stores in its estate. The sites will shut by the end of this month.

JJB said 1,200 jobs will be affected overall, but 400 of the positions will be deployed elsewhere in the business. Seven of the sites are due to re-badged as Original Shoe Company, a retailer acquired by JJB earlier this year.

The moves were announced as JJB said adjusted profits fell 28% to £33.8 million in the year to January 27. A £25 million hit relating to the cost of closing the stores meant bottom-line profits fell 72% to £10.8 million.

JJB joined other retailers today in warning that it did not expect any respite from the difficult economic conditions in the short term.

It said total revenues for JJB stores and fitness clubs for the seven weeks to March 16 were 3.5% lower than the same period last year, while margins also came under pressure as a result of the competitive trading conditions.

JJB's fortunes have been impacted by its exposure to the replica kit market and the failure of any of the home nations to qualify for this summer's Euro 2008 football tournament.