JD Sports Fashion, a global retailer specializing in sportswear and athleisure, has released its full-year results for the 52 weeks leading up to February 1. These results, which were reported before the COVID-19 pandemic, provide valuable insight into the company’s performance prior to the global health crisis and offer some hope for potential recovery.

While it is still too early to fully assess the impact of the pandemic on JD Sports, the company has noted its resilience during the closure period and its ability to continue trading online. While some stores have started reopening in certain countries, footfall has been lower than expected, especially in Northern Europe, as consumers remain cautious about crowded spaces.

Despite the uncertainties ahead, JD Sports remains confident in its market-leading multi-channel strategy and believes it is well-positioned to adapt to any structural changes in the retail industry. However, the company does recognize that future store investments will require realistic rental agreements and flexible leases, dependent on consumer behavior and footfall.

Financially, JD Sports reported a 30% increase in revenue to £6.11 billion, with group EBITDA before exceptional items rising by 28% to £623.6 million. Comparable profit before tax and exceptional items saw a significant increase of over £110 million to £465.6 million. However, reported pre-tax profit only saw a marginal uptick of 3% to £348.5 million, while the gross profit percentage slightly dipped to 47%.

The company’s global sports fashion chains experienced strong like-for-like sales growth of 12%, with the UK and Republic of Ireland performing exceptionally well. JD Sports expanded throughout the year, opening 52 new stores in mainland Europe and 18 in the Asia Pacific region. It also increased its presence in the US with 11 JD stores and announced plans to open a flagship location in New York’s Times Square.

However, JD Sports faced challenges in its outdoor business, as evidenced by the recent administration filing and subsequent buy-back of Go Outdoors, resulting in an overall pre-tax loss of £23.5 million. Despite this setback, JD Sports maintains its commitment to the outdoor sector, recognizing its relevance, especially when it comes to third-party brands. The Blacks/Millets business showed progress by returning to a small profit last year.

Looking ahead, JD Sports acknowledges that the current year will be weaker due to the impact of store closures in 14 countries. However, the company is confident in its market-leading position and its ability to maintain a strong emotional connection with its consumers. Executive Chairman Peter Cowgill stated that despite the constraints imposed by COVID-19, JD Sports has a robust multi-channel strategy and remains optimistic about the company’s future.

In conclusion, JD Sports reported strong financial performance prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and remains hopeful for a swift recovery. The focus on realistic rental agreements and flexible leases, along with the market-leading multi-channel strategy, positions JD Sports well to navigate the changing retail landscape. With continued consumer relevance and a strong emotional connection, JD Sports is prepared to tackle the challenges and uncertainties of the coming months.

Useful Links:
JD Sports Official Website
Retail Gazette – UK Retail News