Is JD Sports running out of puff?

Sales have dropped by 1.5% at the sports clothes retailer. If even teenagers are tightening their belts, things must be bad.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
It’s been a year of ups and downs for JD Sports, but the sports clothes retailer has, for the most part, put a brave face on things. The riots is a prime example: after £10m of damage was caused to its stores by behoodied trainer enthusiasts, executive chairman Peter Cowgill simply shrugged, saying it showed ‘there is a strong appetite for our products on the high street’. But even Cowgill will struggle to find a silver lining for this one: the chain reported today that sales dropped by 1.5% in the 16 weeks to November 19. Things must be getting bad…

Admittedly, the high street’s had a rough few months, but until now, JD Sports’s performance hadn’t been affected – which many analysts put down to the fact that most of its clientele is young, cash-rich and unburdened by mortgages or taxes or other such tiresome sappers of disposable income. So it’s all the more significant that sales have dropped by so much – particularly when compared with the 3.3% rise in sales it experienced in its first half. Then again, it could be that its customers simply grabbed what they needed during the riots. Or that they’ve all been banged up…

Until recently, the company, which operates 350 JD Sports and Size? stores in the UK, had been making a decent go of turning itself around, having had several particularly troublesome years, in which it came close to bankruptcy a few times. In fact, its trading updates reports that it’s opened two new stores in France over the past few months (Avez-vous des Kappa poppers, s’il vous plait?). The chain also says it’s planning to open a store in Spain over the next few months. Although whether consumers there have more cash to splash on trainers remains to be seen…

It’s no surprise, though, that the firm warned today that it anticipates a ‘tough’ Christmas trading period. Although hopefully riot-free.

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