What JD Sports has achieved in the retail sector in the last decade or more is remarkable, and that is reflected once again in record first half results.
Partly the business has benefited from wider trends around athleisure, as the lines between what younger people wear to work out, go out and stay in become more blurred.
“However, it has been razor-sharp in its focus on its customers, delivering what they want, when they want it and how they want it,” said AJ Bell’s Russ Mould.
“This has been backed by lots of boring stuff like keeping a tight rein on costs and stock as well as having the warehousing capacity to ensure it could shift from physical stores to its digital channel when Covid restrictions demanded.
“JD has also been ready to take advantage of the pent-up demand as restrictions have been eased and people have returned to its shops.
“JD has been bold in looking to break America, propelled by the 2018 acquisition of Finish Line, and this daring has been rewarded handsomely, particularly of late when many US customers have had stimulus cheques to spend.
“The next step in the acquisition strategy may be to step out into the broader fashion market amid reports of a bid for popular online women’s fashion brand Missguided.
“There are risks facing the business. Some of its most important brands like Nike and Adidas are looking to expand how much they sell direct to consumers and an economic downturn or widespread unemployment could crimp consumer spending.
“Footfall is already waning after a post-lockdown spurt and the company is being hit by supply chain issues like many other businesses. But based on recent history, few would bet against JD Sports navigating these issues successfully.
“Suddenly the potential blocking of its acquisition of Footasylum, recently announced by the competition authorities, is looking like the merest of slips for this hugely impressive operator.”