Leisurewear retailer Blacks Leisure issued a strong interim trading statement this morning and said it planned to open five more ‘test stores’ in Edinburgh, Bristol and Newcastle in September.

In a statement to the Stock Exchange today ahead of its annual general meeting to be held late today it said in its first 19 weeks of trading this year it was had already delivered costs savings of £2.4m against its full year target of £3m.

It said its outdoor business performed well in June with like for like store sales up nearly 30% although like for like sales for the first half of the year were down -2.2%. Like for like store sales for it boardwear division are down -15.5% and for the group are down -5.4%. The peak camping months of July and August account for over 20% of the company's annual sales and it said the season had started well with like for like store sales in July to date up +6.1% for the Group.

Test stores

Two new test stores were opened this year at Kensington and Holbron and it said they were trading ahead of expectations and it was on target to convert a further five stores – three trading as Blacks and two as Millets – in Edinburgh, Bristol and Newcastle.

Millets now trades from 260 stores and Blacks Outdoor from 110 stores, including 11 out of town stores. It boardwear brands Freespirit now operates from 44 stores and O'Neill from 14 stores.

Improved margins

‘The combination of improved margins and the strong performance on cost have ensured that the business remains ahead of last year at the profit before tax level. Finally, a great deal of effort has gone into managing the working capital of the Group more effectively and this has shown strong results with stocks currently running £8.0m (12.4%) below this time last year and consequently net debt being £6.8 m better than the equivalent position at the end of June 2007,’ it said.