JD Sports to scale back retail openings and focus more on ecommerce

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JD Sports grew sales and profits in the year to February 2020 as it signalled its intention to focus more on its ecommerce channel.

The Bury-based sports leisurewear giant saw sales rise 30% to £6.11 billion, with pre-tax profit up 3% to £348.5 million.

It said its ecommerce business delivered a "very resilient performance” during the Covid-19 lockdown, when 98% of the retailer's global physical store estate were closed.

And it says it is "inevitable" that there will be "some level of permanent transfer from physical retail to online" as a result of the pandemic, and plans to open a store a week across Europe are being scaled back.

Peter Cowgill, executive chairman at JD Sports, said: "We were encouraged by the continued positive trading in the early weeks of the year prior to the emergence of Covid-19 and we firmly believe that we are well placed to regain our previous momentum.

"Looking longer term, there is inevitably considerable uncertainty as to what the effect of Covid-19 will be on consumer behaviour and footfall with future store investments highly dependent on rental realism and lease flexibility.

“Ultimately, however, we remain confident that we have a market leading multi-channel proposition which has the necessary flexibility and agility to prosper within a retail environment that may see profound and permanent structural change."

The brand also revealed it is applying for a judicial review into the decision by the Competitions and Markets Authority to block its acquisition of FootAsylum in May, saying it "fails to take proper account of the dynamic and rapidly evolving competitive landscape in which the group operates”.