UK outdoor retailer Blacks Leisure said its business performed very strongly in December in an interim management statement for the period from the financial half year end of 28 August 2010 to 30 December 2010, which includes the key Christmas trading period.

“I am pleased to announce that the Group has performed strongly during the key Christmas trading period highlighting the strength of our offering in what continues to be a challenging retail market,” said CEO Neil Gillis. “The turnaround programme remains on track and we enter the New Year in a positive financial position and focussed on continuing to deliver the benefits of the turnaround strategy.  The store opening programme has performed well this year and we are due to continue this with a further new store in February 2011 and additional opportunities in the pipeline for our new financial year beginning in March 2011.”

Total sales in December for the Outdoor business were up 12.9% with like-for-like sales increasing by 10.2%. This is versus a strong set of comparatives from the same period last year, when like-for-like sales were up 14.9%, the company said. 

The performance during December helped the Outdoor business deliver positive comp store sales during the financial half year to date of 1.2%, with total Group comp store sales marginally decreasing by 0.1%.  Margin performance has been stronger than in the comparable period in the previous year, the company said.

Total Group sales in the period since Aug. 28, 2010 were £85.4m compared to £95.8m in the prior period – the reduction being largely as a result of the stores closed in the restructuring programme last year. 

“The strong performance of the business over the winter period has helped us to offset the decline experienced by the business over the summer,” the company said in its statement.  “As a consequence the Board is confident that results for the full year will meet internal management expectations.”

The boad said it was particularly encouraged by continued strong sales from the 12 invested and new stores. These stores continue to represent almost 10% of total group sales. The company will open a  new Blacks store in February and converting a Millets to the new Blacks format in the same month.

Following receipt of a number of unsolicited expressions of interest in the company and/or parts of the Group's business, the board appointed McQueen Limited as advisors in October to assess the seriousness and deliverability of these approaches.  Blacks Leisure remains in discussion with a number of parties who have put forward indicative offers for the whole and/or parts of the business.  This process is on-going and a further announcement will be made in due course.