Retailer JD Sports on Thursday said annual profits will come in ahead of forecasts, as it outlined plans to divide the chairman and chief executive role.
The sportswear chain had to close shops in different countries at various points for lockdowns. But it saw online growth during the pandemic and said trading since reopening recently “was particularly encouraging” in the UK.
It said: “Both loyal and new customers, seeking to refresh their personal style as hospitality and workplaces began to reopen, reacted positively to JD’s innovative and exciting product mix.”
The firm pointed out that footfall does remain fragile, and online traffic is at “elevated levels”. JD Sports also cheered good demand in the US.
Profits before tax and exceptional items for the year to January 2022 are on track to be no less than £550 million. Analysts had pencilled in £524.5 million.
Shares in JD Sports rose 35.6p to 954.p following the update ahead of the firm’s annual meeting today.
Some shareholder advisory groups have been critical of £4.3 million of bonuses for executive chairman Peter Cowgill in a year of support from the government.
The retailer has previously said most of the bonus was approved by shareholders in 2019, but it today moved to address a number of issues.
The company said furlough in the UK helped ensure thousands of people it employs were supported.
It added: “We will consider repaying government support on payroll costs which we have received whilst stores have been temporarily closed during the current year. We will defer a final decision on this until there is certainty on both the full easing of restrictions and the consequences of any further lockdowns during our peak trading period this Winter.”
The FTSE 100 company also said it intends to divide the current role of executive chairman and CEO before the annual meeting in 2022 and “a comprehensive process will commence shortly”.
Cowgill has been executive chairman of the chain since 2004, and took on chief executive responsibilities also a decade later.
It is more common in the City to see a separate boss and chairman.