JD Sports has said that shoppers remain “nervous” about visiting shopping centres due to the risk of the spread of coronavirus in crowds.
The retailer, which began reopening stores in some countries in April and in England on June 15, said: “Initial footfall has been weaker in malls and shopping centres, particularly in Northern Europe at weekends, as consumers remain nervous about the risks associated with densely occupied enclosed spaces.”
However, the company did say that those who visited stores are more inclined to spend, rather than simply browse.
JD gave the update as it reported annual results to the City. Revenue in the year to February 1 – before the Covid outbreak hit Europe - increased by 30% to £6.1 billion while pre-tax profits rose 3% to £348.5 million.
Executive chairman Peter Cowgill said: ""We were encouraged by the continued positive trading in the early weeks of the year prior to the emergence of COVID-19 and we firmly believe that we are well placed to regain our previous momentum.
“Looking longer term, there is inevitably considerable uncertainty as to what the effect of COVID-19 will be on consumer behaviour and footfall with future store investments highly dependent on rental realism and lease flexibility.”
He added: “Ultimately, however, we remain confident that we have a market leading multi-channel proposition which has the necessary flexibility and agility to prosper within a retail environment that may see profound and permanent structural change."
JD Sports opened 309 stores on June 15 when on-essential stores were allowed to reopen, although changing rooms remain closed and returned stock has been separated fro new or old stock for 72 hours to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission.
The retailer introduced a host of other distancing measures, including capping the number of shoppers in store and protective screens at tills.
Last month JD bough its Go Outdoors chain back out of administration for £56.5 million with the pledge to “preserve as many jobs as possible”. The chain, which has 2400 staff and 67 shops, sells outdoor clothing and campaign gear.
JD said it had explored all options, including a sale, of Go Outdoors but had opted for administration to allow a restructure.