JD Sports Fashion has continued to perform strongly in recent weeks, allowing the owner of Blacks, Millets, Go Outdoors and other sports and outdoor stores to report increased comparable sales and guidance above market expectations for the full fiscal year to Feb. 3.

The group said last week that comparable store sales in the second fiscal half-year to date increased by about 3 percent across its sports and outdoor stores. This growth comes after outstanding performances for the combined sports and outdoor stores for each of the three previous years, and it excludes additional growth from a substantial increase in demand for its online trade and continued space expansion in international markets.

JD Sports Fashion predicts that its profit before tax for the fiscal year will reach about £300 million (€340.5m-$417.1m), while market expectations before the announcement were in a range of £270 million to £295 million. The preliminary results for the full year will be published on April 17.

The JD group reported a sales jump of 31 percent to £2,378.7 million (€2,699.2m-$3,307.1m) for the previous fiscal year, and its pre-tax profit before exceptional items was up by 56 percent to £244.8 million (€277.8m-$340.3m). The outdoor division alone became profitable with a sales rise of 27.6 percent to £198.1 million for the year to January 28, 2017. It included the acquisition of Go Outdoors but this purchase only had a marginal impact on the numbers because it was bought shortly before the end of the period, meaning that it will be strongly accretive in sales for the current fiscal year.

Lee Bagnall, who heads up the group's outdoor division, was quoted as saying in SGB Outdoor that all of its outdoor retail concepts performed well in the ten weeks. The division delivered its strongest ever holiday season since JD acquired Blacks – with buoyant online sales but also record holiday trading in the physical stores.

The update came amid reports that the wider British retail sector suffered a significant decline in footfall during the holiday season. While December remained the busiest month of the year, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard, a tracking specialist, found that visitor traffic to British stores fell by 3.5 percent compared with the same month in 2016. It was the worst drop since March 2013, when traffic slumped by 5.2 percent. The sharpest declines were recorded in the South West at 5.2 percent, Scotland at 4.7 percent and Greater London at 3.7 percent. Urban stores were worst affected, but the figures were also negative at shopping centers and retail parks.

The explanations include a shift to online spending and to Black Friday in November, as well as belt-tightening amid economic uncertainties, and a fear of crowds. The BRC and Springboard also found that the store capture rate is declining, meaning that fewer visitors enter stores in a shopping center or in downtown areas.