MIKE Ashley’s sportswear empire jumped to a record profit today after enjoying a “significant” sales boost from the London Olympics and Paralympics.
Sports Direct International, which is majority owned by Newcastle United backer Mr Ashley, said half-year revenues were up 22.5% to just over £1 billion amid strong growth in its 398 UK shops and branded sportswear division.
Pre-tax profits rose by a quarter to £125.2 million in the six months to October 28, with the UK’s sporting summer playing a major role in boosting demand.
Chief executive Dave Forsey said: “There is no doubt that Team GB’s outstanding performance has helped increase the awareness and popularity of sport across the UK, and that we have maintained our position as the consumers’ champion.”
The latest improvement for Sports Direct, which owns brands including Slazenger, Donnay and Karrimor, came in a period when rival JJB Sports conceded defeat in its battle for survival.
Sports Direct bought 20 stores from JJB’s administrators but this meant the closure of another 133 sites with the loss of around 2,200 jobs.
Other recent deals have included an 80% shareholding in retail chains USC and Cruise for £7 million and a 51% stake in premium clothing brand Flannels.
The company said it is on track to meet its earnings target for the full year of £270 million, which is the latest benchmark on a staff bonus scheme that recently delivered a £15,000 shares windfall to 1,750 workers.
Since the end of October, Sports Direct said its relaunched website had helped maintain sales momentum at the start of the Christmas trading quarter.
Freddie George, a retail analyst at Seymour Pierce stockbrokers, said: “The company should benefit from recent acquisitions, capacity coming out of the market and a major opportunity to develop internet sales.”