Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group has grown its profits by more than 17% despite being forced to close many of its stores during the pandemic.
The group, which owns Sports Direct, Game Digital, Flannels, and House of Fraser among other brands, saw its operating profit jump to £124.3m for the six months ending October 25 2020, up from £106.2m during the same period in 2019.
The improved profit figures were achieved despite “virtually all” of the group’s English stores being forced to close until December 2 due to lockdown rules.
Stores in wales were closed from October 23 to November 9, while many of the group’s European stores also faced temporary closures.
However, the company said its growth had been achieved by the strong reopening of stores after lockdown, growth in its online business, new Flannels stores, and recent acquisitions.
Mr Ashley was heavily criticised earlier in the year for suggesting he was planning to keep Sports Direct stores open during the first lockdown, claiming they were “essential retailers”. After receiving criticism from MP Michael Gove he eventually backed down.
However, Frasers’ turnover suffered during lockdown, with revenues falling from £2.04bn to £1.89bn.
Despite mostly weathering lockdown well Frasers’ non executive chair David Daly used the publication of the group’s accounts to take aim at the Government over its handling of the pandemic.
Mr Daly said: “I do not wish to comment on the wider Covid-19 picture but from a general retail perspective it is impossible to ignore the lack of clarity of guidance when it finally arrives.
“Fortunately the Frasers Group is a strong business built on solid foundations. We can weather most of the storms faced this calendar year, however much of the UK High Street, which was already suffering before Covid-19, won’t survive unless the Government addresses the out of date business rates regime which is due to return come April 2021.”
Mr Daly also praised Frasers’ employees for their “resilience” and “willingness to adapt” over the last year.
The business, which in the past has been criticised for the treatment of its Sports Direct staff, recently announced a bonus scheme, called the Fearless 1000.
Under the programme staff will receive £100m in shares if the company’s share priced reaches £10 anytime over the next four years, and stays above that price for 30 days. The amount received would vary but 10 members of staff would receive £1m each through the scheme.
The billionaire NUFC owner has also launched a bid to save Debenhams, warning time is running out for a rescue effort of the beleaguered chain.