As Sports Direct chases dying stores, JD wins athleisure race

Mike Ashley’s obsession with Debenhams means Sports Direct shares have dived and he’s losing out in sports sector

Compare and contrast. One of the UK’s sporting goods retailers, Sports Direct, seems to want to act as undertaker to the UK’s department store sector. The other big player, JD Sports, is following a simpler plan to sell expensive branded trainers and “athleisure” garments to more people in more places. There are no prizes for guessing which strategy is working better. Sports Direct’s shares have more than halved in the past five years while JD’s have roughly quadrupled.

The gap became a little wider on Monday as JD’s share price improved 6% as the firm reported a decent Christmas and said expansion in the US, via last year’s £400m purchase of the Finish Line chain, is running to plan. It’s a mystery (to some of us) how a pair of Nike or Adidas trainers can cost £150-plus, but there’s no doubting JD’s ability to shift stock at that price. The group predicted full-year profits would arrive at the upper end of City forecasts, meaning a figure close to £350m.

Related: Sports Direct hits out at Debenhams for rejecting £40m loan

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