Blacks Leisure Group reported total group sales for the company’s first half ended August 31, 2005 inched up 1.1% to £140.0 million ($257.3 mm) from £138.6 million ($252.2 mm) for the first half of 2004. The retail group raised its margins 390 basis points to 55.6% of sales, prompting operating profit to jump 12.1% to £7.2 million ($13.3 mm). Total profit after taxes was £4.7 million ($8.6 mm), up 10.4% from £4.2 million ($7.7 mm) last year. Diluted earnings per share were 11.05p (20.3 cents), up 11.6% from last year’s 9.9p (18.0 cents).

The group’s Outdoor business performed “satisfactorily,” posting a 3.0% revenue gain to £124.9 million ($229.4 mm) from £121.2 million ($220.5 mm) for H1 2004. Operating profit for the group was £7.9 million ($14.6 mm), a 14.3% jump from last year’s £6.9 million ($12.6 mm). Management noted that summer camping and hiking provided strong sales increases, but poor performance of waterproof clothing and footwear in a very dry half offset those gains.

The Boardwear business was much improved, with FreeSpirit on a like for like basis improving sales and margins. On the O’Neill side, revenues decreased 12.0% to £16.7 million ($30.7 mm). Operating profit for the chain fell 30.5% to £0.4 million ($0.8 mm). Management attributed the softness to the generally weak retail environment the U.K. has been experiencing, as well as to an anticipated poor performance on the distribution arm of the business.