Olympic boost at Sports Direct

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​Retailer Sports Direct​ ​said it is looking forward to 2016 with confidence ahead of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and the 2016 European Football Championships in which England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will be competing.

​The group reported​ a 7.6 per cent rise in underlying earnings for the first half, helped by the roll-out of large format city centre stores, and said it is confident of meeting its target for the year.

The ​firm posted underlying earnings of ​£​218.5​m and said it ​i​s on track to achieve its full-year ambition of ​£​420​m.

Chief executive Dave Forsey said:​ ​“The ​g​roup has delivered another excellent set of results particularly given the strong comparable sales generated in the build up to the FIFA 2014 World Cup and after a generally mixed summer for the retail sector.

“Within Sports Retail our commitment to upgrading our store portfolio continues to deliver gross margin growth and is a significant contributor to our strong EBITDA result.

​“​We continue to innovate, refine and improve our customer proposition. In line with this strategy, during the period we opened new larger format stores in Leeds and Plymouth and combined gym and retail spaces in St Helens and Newport.​“