Sports Direct, B&Q and Dunelm grow profits

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The Independent Online

Three of the UK's biggest retailers delivered a rise in profits yesterday, but Sports Direct, Dunelm and B&Q-owner Kingfisher unveiled mixed messages on recent trading.

Sports Direct, the market leader in sports retail, showed its troubled rival JJB a clean pair of heels by posting an 8.4 per cent rise in gross profit to £167m for the 13 weeks to 23 January. Total sales were up by 12.1 per cent to £416m over the period. Dave Forsey, its chief executive, said its UK performance had continued to be "strong" since the end of January.

Kingfisher, the DIY group that operates 850 stores in eight countries, also boasted it expects adjusted pre-tax profits to be towards the upper end of City expectations of between £666m and £672m for the year ended 29 January. While total sales in the UK and Ireland, including Screwfix, rose by 0.7 per cent to £954m in the fourth quarter, they slipped by 0.3 per cent at B&Q.

The DIY chain blamed a "weak market" and the temporary disruption to the delivery and installation of kitchens from the snowfall in December. Dunelm, the out-of-town homewares retailer, crafted a 5 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £48.5m over the half-year to 1 January, boosted by a rise in gross margin.

Nick Wharton, the retailer's new chief executive, signalled a "more ambitious" online strategy, but said it remained "cautious regarding the fragility of consumer confidence". Sales rose by 8.5 per cent to £275.7m, but fell by 1.2 per cent on a like-for-like basis.