Major expansion at Blacks in store

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The Independent Online

Blacks Leisure is pressing ahead with an aggressive opening programme to take advantage of a resurgent outdoor clothing market.

The company, which sold its fashion sports division last year to focus on brands such as Millets, sees the potential to double its turnover over the medium-term by opening new stores and upgrading its existing units to bigger sites. It plans to open 20 stores this year, in addition to 11 it acquired when it bought the boardwear specialist Just Add Water earlier this year, and sees scope to add the same number again next year.

The group said it had expanded its opening programme to take advantage of the number of suitable sites available. Roy Crosland, the chief executive, said capital expenditure for the group this year would reach £11m - £4m more than originally budgeted.

Blacks, which owns the Blacks Outdoor and Free Spirit brands, underlined how weather dependent its business was yesterday, revealing that underlying sales growth had slowed to 1 per cent during the past seven weeks from 6.8 per cent over the summer. Mr Crosland said he wasn't "displeased" with the 1 per cent like-for-like sales growth achieved since its second half began.

Pre-tax profits for the six months to 31 August were £4.5m, against a £6.3m loss a year earlier. Excluding the group's loss-making sports and fashion division, which was sold in May 2002, profits before tax and goodwill amortisation rose 44 per cent to £5.6m.

Blacks' shares rose 10p to 357.5p.