- Sportswear retailer JD Sports said it was confident its headline pre-tax profit would be at the upper end of market expectations, as international growth over the festive period helped offset the gloomy UK retail backdrop.

Market expectations for pre-tax profit were currently in the range of £325m to £352m, the company said.

Total sales growth was 15% across its global sports fashion fascias for the cumulative 48-week period to 5 January, with like-for-like sales growth of 5%.

Gross profit margins had been maintained at prior year levels as the retailer said it stuck with its policy not to enter into short-term reactive discounting unnecessarily despite the 'well-publicised challenges within the wider UK retail market'.

During the second half, JD sports opened its first two stores in Thailand and shortly before the key holiday period also opened its first five JD stores in the United States which included the conversion of three existing Finish Line stores.

The initial trial of the JD fascia in the United States was extended as the company planned to convert up to 15 further Finish Line stores planned for the first half of 2019.

The first phase of works to fit out the 352,000 sqft extension at its primary Kingsway warehouse had now been completed, with additional works expected to be completed in Spring 2019, the company confirmed.

The transition to the enlarged site had increased labour cost inefficiencies, but the company said it was 'confident' that that domestically and internationally, its 'exclusive sports fashion premium brand offer provides a solid foundation for future development.'

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