MIKE Ashley’s Sports Direct business posted sales figures to match his football team’s better-than-expected start to the Premier League.
Mr Ashley, whose Newcastle team is currently fourth in the Premier League, is the majority owner of Sports Direct.
The company, which has 390 stores and owns brands including Slazenger, Dunlop and Karrimor, unveiled a 12.1% increase in retail store sales to £296m for the nine weeks to September 25.
This bettered forecasts of about 7% as Sports Direct continued to benefit from the impact of a bonus scheme, which has helped incentivise staff in recent years.
Retail profits also beat expectations at £119m – up by 13.3% – as margins improved and Sports Direct took market share from rivals.
The sportswear retailer said it is confident of reaching its target for underlying profits of £215m in the year to April.
That is a critical benchmark for the staff bonus scheme that last year paid out more than £40,000 on average to some 2,000 staff.
A new bonus scheme was introduced earlier this year that runs for four years and requires targets to be hit in each year.
Chief executive Dave Forsey praised the employee scheme, which he said had underpinned the strong sales performance over the past two months.
Increased spending on marketing and other initiatives such as better quality stock had also given a boost.
Total sales increased by 11.5% to £329m over the nine weeks, with gross profit up by 12% to £131m.