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Struggling JJB Sports Sees Christmas Sales Rise

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JJB Sports, which earlier this year was forced to borrow nearly £100m from its shareholders, got a brief boost from its Christmas sales.
JJB Sports, which earlier this year was forced to borrow nearly £100m from its shareholders, got a brief boost from its Christmas sales.

JJB Sports reported a rise in its sales over the Christmas period, a boost for the struggling retailer that has run close to the wind in its battle for survival throughout 2011.

Like-for-like sales rose 5% in the four weeks to boxing day, the company said, with overall sales across six months falling, but not as fast as in the first half of the year.

The company was forced to borrow nearly £100m from its biggest shareholders, as well as closing more than 40 stores as it tried to dodge administration.

Analyst Philip Dorgan at Panmure Gordon said that JJB was "making decent progress in very difficult markets" but warned that "the deteriorating consumer environment suggests that the recovery will be slower over the next few years."

2011 saw a number of high profile casualties on the high street, including Barratts shoes, which was forced to shed 1,600 jobs after no buyer could be found. La Senza entered administration in December, while French Connection, Game and Thorntons all issued profit warnings.

Wednesday saw retail bellwethers John Lewis and Next report their Christmas sales results. The former took nearly £600m during the festive season.

Next, on the other hand, saw high street sales fall 2.7% year-on-year between August and Christmas Eve, a fall that was offset in part by a rise in sales in its online arm, Next Directory.

The Christmas period was difficult for many retailers, who had hoped that a traditionally strong buying period would rescue what had been a punishing year. Many resorted to early discounting that drove up volumes but may well have squeezed margins.

"The fact that they've had to discount so heavily before Christmas means there's probably dark days ahead for many of them," the Economist Intelligence Unit's retail analyst Jon Copestake said on Wednesday.

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