JD Sports (JD.L) expects its stores to remain closed until “at least Easter,” as the retailer braces itself for a sustained UK lockdown.
Ministers have said they do not expect the lockdown to be eased until at least March, and have set a target of offering all adults coronavirus vaccines only by the autumn.
Easter Sunday is on 4 April this year. JD Sports also said in a trading update on Monday it expects unspecified “operational restrictions” for even longer, outlasting its first quarter which runs to 29 April.
But shares jumped in the sports fashion chain on Monday as it revealed promising sales figures. Stocks were up 4.5% in early trading on the London Stock Exchange.
“Against a backdrop of further forced temporary store closures in many of our global territories, it is pleasing to report that demand has remained robust throughout the second half, including in the key months of November and December,” the company said.
Total like-for-like revenues were up more than 5% year-on-year in the 22 weeks to 2 January. Consumers “readily switched” between physical stores and online channels.
The group said its “headline” pre-tax profits were now predicted to be at least £400m ($540m) in its financial year to the 30 January, “significantly ahead” of reported market expectations of around £295m.
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The forecasts come in spite of the dire year suffered by many UK fashion retailers, with a string of job cuts and online sales failing to fully offset lost in-store trade. Lockdown restrictions are widely seen to have curbed pre-virus demand for many forms of clothing as well as shoppers’ ability to buy and try in stores.
But the company added: “Whilst we are confident that we have the proposition to continue to attract consumers throughout this period, the process to scale down activity in stores and scale up the digital channels, often at extremely short notice, presents significant challenges.”
It also said the likely restrictions in the months to come meant its headline pre-tax profits in the coming financial year would likely be between 5% and 10% ahead of the current year, lower than in “normal circumstances.”