Sports Direct staff to get extended bonus scheme

RETAILER Sports Direct said it would extend its staff bonus scheme for the next two years after the incentive helped the firm deliver a 40 per cent hike in profits.

The sportswear chain said eligible employees would receive a potential bonus of up to one year's salary, weighted 25 per cent in shares in the financial year ending 2012 and 75 per cent in shares in 2013. The group must hit underlying earnings targets of 215m and 250m in each year respectively.

The company – controlled by Mike Ashley, the owner of Newcastle FC – said it was also confident of hitting this year's underlying earnings target of 205m and triggering this year's bonus awards.

Non-executive chairman Keith Hellawell said there was "no doubt" the scheme helped the group record 100.7m in pre-tax profits in the six months to October 24.

Sports Direct said UK retail revenues were up 10 per cent to 644.3m in the first half.

The owner of Sports World stores and brands including Slazenger and Donnay reported its strongest ever trading day when England played the US during the World Cup. The run-up to the football tournament boosted sales but the impact dwindled as England's performance failed to live up to expectations, the company added.

It is rolling out a strategy of store improvements, including new merchandising techniques, and openings. It is still on target to open between 10 and 15 new stores this year.

But Sports Direct is still cautious over its outlook.

Chief executive Dave Forsey said: "We anticipate the general retail environment in the first few months of 2011 to be tough. However, trading since the end of October has continued to be in line with management expectations."

Matthew McEachran, analyst at Singer Capital, said the continuation of the bonus scheme signalled a further boost to trading prospects.

"All divisions are progressing well and the combination of sharp value and rapidly improving store merchandising techniques is being well received by consumers," he said.

The company, which has 26 stores in Yorkshire, also owns Lillywhites, McGurks, Exsports, Gilesports and Hargreaves and Field & Trek.

n Goals Soccer Centres warned that annual pre-tax profits will be 700,000 lower than its earlier expectations, due to heavy snowfall across the UK.

The operator of five-a-side soccer centres said that centres under construction at Hull, Sunderland and Norwich are due to open on schedule. But its Liverpool South centre opening has been delayed to early January.

The company, which has pitches in Bradford, Leeds and Sheffield, said its site pipeline remains strong and it is confident it can continue to expand.