Sportswear retailer JJB warns of slow recovery

Sportswear retailer JJB warned its recovery could take up to five years today as it produced more hefty losses in a year when it came close to collapse.

The group, which has more than 200 stores in the UK and Ireland, has started to overhaul the business after it secured landlords' backing for a rescue deal.

JJB revealed plans to refit 150 stores this year but said its restructuring would not be "easy or quick" and could take three to five years.

The warning came as JJB reported a 9% increase in adjusted operating losses to £73.9 million in the 52 weeks to January 30. But its pre-tax losses more than doubled to £181.4 million after one-off exceptional items of £108 million.

JJB secured its survival with the help of £96.5 million in funds from major shareholders, including a foundation set up by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda.

The cash will allow JJB to press on with its restructuring, which includes closing 43 unprofitable stores and placing a further 46 on review.

JJB, which employs around 5,200 staff, has shut 18 stores since the end of January.

The company will also refit its estate, source new product ranges, re-train its staff and broaden its online range, as well as make further cost savings.

Chairman Mike McTighe said JJB now has a "real chance of recovery" but added "this is the beginning of the hard work and not the end".

He said: "The restructuring of JJB will not be easy or quick and will most likely take three to five years. The retail environment is challenging, will remain so for some time and we face intense competition."

In its last trading update, JJB reported a 14% decline in like-for-like sales between March 14 and April 3.

It has already re-fitted six stores, which have performed 16% above the company average and will be the basis for the planned revamp across the whole estate.

Shares in JJB fell 10% after today's results were published. The share price has plunged 85% from 166.3p to around 23.5p in the last year.

Freddie George, a retail analyst at investment bank Seymour Pierce, said he did not expect JJB to break even until 2013.

He said: "Although the company is now on a much sounder footing, it will, we believe, be a long haul back to recovery.

"The strategy, which is likely to evolve during the lead-up to the 2012 Olympics and European Championships, is still unclear."

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