Travel Gear

JD Sports is free to fully embrace the great outdoors

JD Sports’s deal to buy Go Outdoors for £128.3 million has been approved by the competition regulator.

The deal was announced last year but had been under investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority, which expressed concerns that it would reduce competition.

Go Outdoors sells a wide range of goods including waterproofs, boots, tents and bicycles and has 58 stores across the UK. JD Sports sells a range of sportswear and also owns the Blacks, Millets and Ultimate Outdoors brands. Since the deal was announced Go Outdoors has been run separately from JD Sports pending the regulator’s final clearance.

Clarks insists it is on the right footing after profits fall
Profits have fallen rapidly at Clarks as the footwear retailer struggles to right its performance following a difficult few years.

Accounts published by C&J Clark, the parent company of Clarks, revealed that pre-tax profits almost halved from £35 million to £19.9 million. This was on group turnover that had risen from £1.53 billion to £1.65 billion in the year to January 31.

In a sign of the challenge facing the family-owned chain, operating profits have also fallen from £45.8 million to £39.1 million while dividends to members of the Clarks family have plummeted from £42.5 million to £16.5 million.

Clarks said that it had made progress in addressing some key issues it faced 18 months ago such as stemming the “outflow of cash”, stabilising borrowings and reducing excess stock.

It said that the business, headed by Mike Shearwood who was brought in as chief executive replacing Melissa Potter late last year, was now getting back on track.

Used cars are a nice little earner, even if they are diesel
A record number of used cars were sold in the UK in the first quarter, with growth in both diesel and petrol cars. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, 2.1 million used cars changed hands in the first three months of 2017, 3.4 per cent more than in the same period during 2016.

Of the 851,569 used diesel cars sold during the period, one in five were the latest low-emission models, the SMMT said. The sales come at a time of political pressure to clamp down on diesel engines. The Lib Dems have a proposed a ban on the sale of diesel cars in the UK by 2025.

More than two million used cars changed hands in the first three months of 2017

Silver remained the best-selling used-car colour, but its popularity may be receding. Sales declined 2.1 per cent in the quarter.

Mike Hawes, chief executive, said: “It’s also positive to see sales of used electric and hybrid vehicles rise.”

£2 breakfast sees Greggs bring home bacon
The allure of the £2 breakfast shows no sign of diminishing as Greggs posted another strong trading update.

The food-to-go retailer, which also sells fruit juices, coffees and hot sandwiches, said its sales were up 7.5 per cent in the first 19 weeks of this year. This was better than the 5.7 per cent rise at the same time last year. Its
like-for-like sales were also up by 3.6 per cent, a touch down on last year’s comparable uplift of 3.7 per cent.

Greggs has attracted customers by increasing its range to include herbal teas, salads, yoghurts, nut snacks, and gluten-free items. It has opened new stores, relocated others and invested in its infrastructure and business operations to reduce costs and improve efficiency.

In February the baker said it had generated a pre-tax profit of £75.1 million in the year to December 31, up from £73 million. Total sales rose 7 per cent to £894.2 million, with like-for-like figures up by 4.2 per cent.

Mothercare to close stores as it moves online
Mothercare is to cut the number of high street stores it has in the UK as digital sales rise and it continues its turnaround programme.

The retailer said its store strategy would focus on maintaining a “regional presence in key conurbations”. It has 152 stores but will reduce these to between 80 to 100.

Mark Newton-Jones, chief executive, revealed the store closures as he announced a slight increase in underlying full-year pre-tax profit from £19.6 million to £19.7 million last year. He said that although stores would still have a clear role, sales from online were on a trajectory to be more than half of group turnover. Last year Mothercare generated UK sales of nearly £460 million while total worldwide sales, including wholesale revenue, were slightly more than £1.2 billion.

Mr Newton-Jones said that Mothercare, which has been working to improve its UK store estate and international business, was in the third year of its turnaround. “Following a difficult start, the UK recovered in the second half, returning to underlying profit for the first time in six years,” he said. Mothercare is not paying a dividend.

Rising revenues give boost to Thomas Cook
Thomas Cook enjoyed a day in the sun with stronger than expected first-half results. Shares of the travel group, which has had mixed fortunes since its near-death experience in 2011, gained 1.28 per cent to 95¼p on the back of a 3 per cent increase in revenues to £2.99 billion and a £2 million improvement in its seasonal losses to £177 million.

Peter Fankhauser, chief executive, said
he expected profits to hit forecasts despite overcapacity in the airline market and strong competition in the UK. The group was benefiting from product improvements and an overhaul in its customer service culture, while it was seeing “no signs of any decline in consumer confidence”.

Its UK summer programme is 61 per cent sold, with bookings 2 per cent up on this time last year and the average selling price also up 2 per cent. Overall, bookings are 12 per cent ahead, although prices are down 1 per cent.