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Blacks enjoys bumper Easter.

THE integration of stores that were part of LiverpoolbasedFamous Army Stores chain into its operation has provided a boost for camping and hiking specialist Blacks Leisure. The company, which acquired 47 stores from failed Speke-based rival FAS in February last year, said it was on the right track after reporting a successful Easter trading period.

The Northampton-based retailer, whose outdoor division includes Millets, Blacks Outdoor and Free Spirit, said like-for-like sales in the eight weeks to last Saturday had shown a 5.6pc improvement on a year earlier. Chairman David Bernstein said demand at the start of the camping and hiking season had been promising: `` The board considers the group has got off to a strong start to the new financial year.''

The improvement follows a ``watershed'' year for Blacks after the sale of its under-performing Sports and Fashion division that included First Sport.

Blacks said the changes had paid off, with turnover from continuing operations in the year to February 28 lifting 2 6pc to pounds 217.9m and operating profits up 38pc at pounds 15.3m. In the outdoor division, profits rose 48pc to pounds 12.3m.

Overall turnover was down to pounds 244.9m from pounds 363.1m while bottom-line pre-tax profits were pounds 1.5m against pounds 10.2m. The loss on the sale was pounds 5.5m.

Shareholders will receive a total dividend for the year of 7.1p, up 7pc on a year earlier.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 1, 2003
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