Fresh hope for JJB’s surivival

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SHARES in Wigan retail giant JJB Sports jumped by 20 per cent yesterday amid talk of recovery “green shoots.”

Analysts say that latest figures, while still gloomy, suggest a solid performance in a generally tough market and are predicting that in the long term the Martland Mill company might now just be able to fight its way out of crisis.

Like-for-like sales were down by 7.6 per cent in the 26 weeks to January 29, but this was better than the 17.9 per cent decline over the previous half year.

While experts say JJB still has a mountain to climb, with losses of £60m expected for the year just ended, shares leapt on hopes the figures signal the start of improved trading fortunes.

Last year, JJB was forced to secure £96.5m in funds from major shareholders, while announcing plans to close 43 unprofitable stores and place a further 46 on review in a bid to stave off administration.

Chief executive Keith Jones said JJB’s performance was broadly in line with expectations despite challenging conditions.

He added: “Weaker UK employment numbers and the ongoing credit squeeze on consumers create a tough environment. However, we are continuing to implement our turnaround aware of the importance of the key trading opportunities afforded by the European football championships and London Olympics.”

Panmure Gordon analyst Philip Dorgan said: “This is a solid performance, in the circumstances, given the fact that most clothing retailers have have had a tough start to the calendar year.

”A few green shoots are beginning to become visible, given the continued strong performance of the refitted stores, a decent online opportunity emerging and ongoing good cash management.”