Mike Ashley’s sportswear empire posted another surge in summer sales despite tough comparisons from last year’s London Olympics.
Sports Direct International, which is controlled by the Newcastle United owner, saw sales rise 15.1% to £463.7 million in the nine weeks to September 29, down only marginally on the 18.2% growth reported in the first quarter.
Gross profits rose 19.4% to £199.8 million and the group added trading had remained strong since the end of September, putting it on track to meet its target for annual underlying earnings of £310 million, before staff bonus payments.
The figures continue the group’s strong run that helped it earn promotion to the FTSE 100 Index for the first time last month following a 70% leap in its share price.
Sports Direct has been benefiting from the demise of rival JJB Sports and a recovering retail sector, as well as ongoing investment and the positive impact of a lucrative bonus scheme, which recently rewarded around 2,000 staff with shares worth more than £68,000.
But it has also come under fire after it emerged that all of its 20,000 part-time staff were employed on zero-hours contracts, leaving them not knowing how many hours they would work from week to week, with no sick pay or holiday pay.
Retail expert Freddie George at Cantor Fitzgerald said Sports Direct will continue to be boosted by the lack of any close national competitor.
He added the chain was “one of the few UK retailers to have exciting prospects for its domestic business in spite of only minimal space growth”.
Its most recent nine-week figures were also boosted by a 75% jump in sales of its smaller premium lifestyle unit, helped by the impact of fashion retailer Republic, bought by Sports Direct in February.
Sports Direct has around 400 stores across the UK and also operates in 19 countries in Europe, including Belgium, Austria, Slovenia, Portugal and France.