UPDATE 1-JD Sports raises profit view as online sales trump lockdown blues

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Jan 11 (Reuters) - Britain’s biggest sportswear retailer JD Sports Fashion Plc on Monday forecast full-year profit to be “significantly ahead” of market expectations of about 295 million pounds, thanks to strong online sales during coronavirus lockdowns.

The company said total revenue for the 22 weeks to Jan. 2, 2021, in the group’s like-for-like businesses were more than 5% ahead from a year earlier, adding that the outturn for the full year is expected to be at least 400 million pounds ($539.80 million).

The owner of Footpatrol and Cloggs said demand remained robust throughout the second-half, including November and December, when Britain imposed fresh restrictions to curb the spread of a new coronavirus variant.

Although Britain’s retail sector was struggling before the pandemic hammered it, JD has generally outperformed rivals by targeting younger consumers with popular athleisure products.

“JD’s resilience in a crisis is remarkable: for chunks of H2, all UK stores were closed and yet through November and December, sales retention was, astoundingly, 100%,” Peel Hunt analysts said in a note.

The retailer said group headline profit before tax for fiscal 2022 would be 5% to 10% ahead of the current year, even as it expects stores in the United Kingdom to be shut until Easter and potential closures elsewhere.

“The process to scale down activity in stores and scale up the digital channels, often at extremely short notice, presents significant challenges,” JD said.

Last month, JD bought Shoe Palace for $325 million in cash to expand its business on the U.S. West Coast. ($1 = 0.7410 pounds) (Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.)