JD Sports Fashion Plc is celebrating a buoyant festive trading performance which exceeded the company’s own expectations.

The Pilsworth sports and fashion footwear and clothing retailer has disclosed like-for-like sales for the five-week Christmas trading period to January 1 were up by 2.5 per cent.

And the group’s cumulative like-for-like sales for the 48-week period to January 1 are up 3.1 per cent, compared to 2.8 per cent for the 30 weeks to August 28. Retail gross profit margins have also been maintained from the previous year.

The board now believes the group will exceed current market expectations for pre-tax profit and exceptional items for the current financial year which one analyst has forecast at £75.4 million.

However, the board recognises the next financial year will present “significant challenges as a result of the impact of both the recent VAT increase and inflationary pressures arising particularly, but not only from, increased raw material prices.”

JD will unveil its preliminary results for the year ending January 29, 2011, in April.

Peter Cowgill, executive chairman, said: “The Christmas trading performance from the group’s main retail fascias has again been pleasing and in excess of our expectations.

“I am particularly grateful to all our staff who, by their endeavour and commitment, ensured that we were largely unaffected over the full five-week period by the difficult weather conditions experienced in December.

“This performance is the result of our strong product and brand proposition presented in inviting retail settings. Nevertheless, the trading environment facing all retailers, and perhaps clothing retailers in particular, will provide additional challenges in the year to come.”

JD opened its first store in Bury in 1981 and moved to Hollins Brook Way, Pilsworth, nine years ago.