JD Sports Fashion, the owner of Blacks, Millets and several other sports retail formats in the U.K. and other European countries, declined to comment on British reports that it was eyeing a takeover of Go Outdoors. The British outdoor retailer with about 60 large-scale stores announced earlier this year that it had appointed advisers to study strategic options that could lead to the sale of at least part of its shares.
This unconfirmed interest was reported by Sky News, which said that JD Sports was among a number of other parties considering an offer for Go Outdoors, including several buy-out firms. If such a tie-up did materialize, it would form a retail group with pro forma annual sales of more than £2 billion (€2.3bn-$2.6bn) and it would more than double the size of the JD group's outdoor retail business to a pro forma annual turnover of more than £350 million (€410.7m-$459.8m).
Go Outdoors has been backed from the start by YFM Equity Partners, while 3i acquired an unspecified minority stake five years ago to support an expansion plan that was meant to raise the number of stores from 30 to 70 in four years. Both investment firms declined to comment.
JD Sports reported that its sales from continuing operations soared by 20 percent to £1,821.6 million (€2,137.5m-$2,393.0m) for the year to Jan. 30, with comparable store sales up by 11.6 percent across all retail formats. The group's outdoor retail division saw its sales climb by 11.0 percent to £155.3 million (€182.2m-$204.0m) for the year. The group had 182 outdoor stores at the end of the fiscal year, including Blacks and Millets along with Tiso, Ultimate Outdoors and a few others. Its gross profit margin was up by 1.1 percentage point to 43.3 percent and its operating loss before one-off items was reduced to £4.0 million (€4.7m-$5.3m), compared with an operating loss of £7.1 million (€8.3m-$9.3m) for the previous year.
Go Outdoors raised its turnover by 11.5 percent to £202 million (€237.0m-$265.4m) for the fiscal year to January. It generated an operating profit (Ebitda) of about £14 million (€16.4m-$18.4m), up by 21 percent, due to the opening of new stores, strong online sales and the development of the retailer's own bike concept. The Go Outdoors format is based on large, out-of-town stores with a wide assortment of outdoor products, including private labels and many other affordable ranges.