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Big rise in profits at outdoor equipment retailer Blacks.

Outdoor equipment retailer Blacks Leisure said yesterday its focus on two core markets had reaped its reward with a 26pc rise in annual profits.

The group has concentrated on outdoor brands Blacks and Millets and surfing and skating brands - including O'Neills - after selling sports and fashion business First Sport to JD Sports in 2002. In the year to February 29, turnover lifted 17pc to pounds 255.5m while pre-tax profits before goodwill and excluding discontinued operations increased to pounds 17.9m.

Blacks added yesterday that it had made a "satisfactory" start to the new financial year despite the mixed weather.

Like-for-like sales in the eight weeks to April 24 increased by 5.3pc while total sales were 19.7pc ahead. Chairman David Bernstein said the mixed weather experienced so far this season had "not surprisingly" held back sales of products such as camping gear, compared with last year's robust early summer season.

But this weakness was counter-balanced by strong demand for waterproof clothing, demonstrating the benefits of the group's balanced portfolio, he added. Blacks outdoor division includes 74 Blacks Outdoor and 252 Millets stores selling outdoor activity clothing, footwear and equipment.

It also includes boardwear and extreme sports brands Free Spirit and Just Add Water - bought last June - which have 40 and 13 stores respectively. Blacks also holds the UK distribution rights for O'Neills, one of the leading global boardwear brands.

Sales at the outdoor division increased by 17pc to pounds 223m compared with the previous year. Operating profits were up 29pc to pounds 15.9m. Operating profits from O'Neills were unchanged at pounds 4m while sales increased by 19pc to pounds 35m.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 7, 2004
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