Retailer JD Sports Fashion has continued to defy gloomy trading on the high street to see annual profits surge by almost a quarter.
Shares jumped as much as 8% higher at one stage as the sportswear chain reported a better-than-expected 24% leap in pre-tax profits to £294.5 million for the year to February 3.
On an underlying basis, profits rose 26% to £307.4 million.
It said like-for-like sales rose by 3% across all its stores and by 7% including online trading over the 53 weeks.
The group cheered another “exceptional year”, although the sales rise marked a slowdown on the double-digit hikes seen in the previous three years.
At a tough time for the industry and the consumer, that’s a standout effortJonathan Pritchard, Peel Hunt
It comes as the wider UK retail sector has suffered amid a dismal start to the year, hit by surging costs, freezing weather and snow disruption, as well as a pullback in consumer spending.
While the Beast from the East swept in after JD Sports’ financial year end, the group said it was “satisfied” with progress in current trading, though it declined to update on sales due to this year’s “significant change in the timing of Easter”.
JD Sports said its global expansion continued apace in the past year, with 56 stores opened on mainland Europe on a net basis.
It has also recently announced its US market debut after agreeing to buy up American sportswear company Finish Line for 558 million US dollars (£388 million) in what it has branded a “transformational” deal.
Excluding this deal, which has yet to complete, JD Sports now has 1,237 stores worldwide, including 385 shops in the UK and Ireland.
Retail analyst Jonathan Pritchard, at Peel Hunt, said: “At a tough time for the industry and the consumer, that’s a standout effort and it is clear that the JD offer is exactly what the customers want, be that physically or online.
“Coming as it does at a moment when the big brands are thinking further about consolidating their retailer lists, such form is invaluable and we see the move to the US as another logical step towards JD becoming a global brand.”