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Staycation boom sees JD Group offer to repay £24m furlough support

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theguardian.com

A staycation boom fuelled a surge in sales of camping, cycling and outdoor gear at JD Group, helping the company to more than double its profits last year.Now the owner of JD Sports, Blacks and Millets has agreed to pay back more than £24m in government furlough support after sales remained strong while stores had been forced to close during the pandemic, and bounced back quickly after the high street lockdowns ended.Publishing its delayed annual results JD Group said total sales rose almost 40% to £8.6bn in the year to the end of January as sales at Blacks, Millets and Go Outdoors jumped nearly 42% to £513.4m helping the outdoor chains make a profit of £25.9m compared with a loss of £26.5m the year before.The group’s core sports fashion chains’ sales also soared nearly 40% as they opened hundreds more stores in the US and expanded online, with 30% of UK sales now via the internet compared with 22% pre-pandemic.“Our outdoor businesses had a much improved year with an elevated demand for holidays in the UK and a general recognition of the physical and mental health benefits of spending time outdoors combining to drive a strong demand for outdoor living and cycling categories in particular,” the company said.

Profits for the outdoor division were also boosted by the restructuring of the Go Outdoors chain which JD put through a controversial pre-pack administration deal in June last year.Helen Ashton, the interim chair of JD, said the strong results were “achieved in the face of a series of unprecedented challenges including sustained periods of temporary store closures in many markets, constraints in the supply of certain products due to factory closures within the global supply chains of the international brands,

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