Sports Direct owner Frasers Group sees signs of ‘normality’ returning


Sports Direct store Oxford St

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Reuters

The owner of Sports Direct and House of Fraser says it is seeing “a semblance of normality” returning, but warned that further lockdowns remain a threat.

Frasers Group said annual pre-tax profits sank 20% to £143.5m as lockdown store closures led to “the most challenging year” in its history.

It also repeated its “frustration” over the problems at Debenhams.

Frasers’ boss Mike Ashley has previously expressed an interest in taking control of Debenhams.

The company said in its statement on Thursday: “We continued to follow the further demise of Debenhams during the year with much frustration and disappointment as it entered administration for a second time.

“We raised our concerns and gave numerous warnings about what we were seeing there, much of which has materialised. Our offers of help were repeatedly disregarded and it is scandalous that this business has now been in administration twice.”

Online ‘strong’

The High Street has been battered by the pandemic, but Frasers said almost all stores across the group had now reopened.

In addition to Sports Direct and House of Fraser, the company also owns Flannels, USC, Jack Wills and Evans Cycles.

Its UK stores were closed in the 23 March to 14 June lockdown period, while its European stores were also subject to restrictions.

However, it was able to continue trading online with sales being “strong”, it said. Frasers said it intended to invest more than £100m in online.

Group revenue rose 6.9% to £3.96bn. “We consider we are well placed for the future,” said Chairman David Daly.

Analysts at Liberum described the results as “robust” and said they pointed to further growth over the next 12 months. Shares in Frasers, down a third so far this year, opened up more than 3% on Thursday.



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