One eye on the ball – David Greenwood, FD of JJB Sports

The past few years have fostered a difficult trading environment for Britain’s largest sportswear retailer and the year ahead is looking no less problematic

In April, JJB Sports unveiled a 12% fall in profits and said that it expected to face fierce competition this year. Pre-tax profits for the year to 25 January fell to £67.8m from £77.3m last year and turnover was hit by slow sales of replica football kits.

JJB has 448 stores in the UK and the country’s success or failure in international sporting events, particularly rugby and football, plays a big role in its success.

Earlier this month JJB revealed that a hoped-for boost to sales from Euro 2004 had failed to halt its decline in revenues, sending its shares down 15p to 259p.

Sales of T-shirts and shorts were also affected by poor weather, according to the company, and competition from other retailers and supermarkets offering clothing at lower prices has had an affect.

But Greenwood is no stranger to fluctuating fortunes. He has, after all, been the company’s FD since January 1978. His 26-year tenure as FD puts him in league with only 10 other finance directors in the FTSE350 who have held their posts since the seventies and eighties.

Just three other old timers beat Greenwood to the position of longest-standing FD in the FTSE250, according to the 2003 annual salary survey compiled by Financial Director.

Greenwood, who enjoys a weighty pay packet, is not among the FTSE-250’s highest earners, but he does earn a not-too modest £215,000 a year with a total pay packet of £231,000. That’s not to be sniffed at – his salary grew by an inflation-busting 6% in 2002.

But there is much work to be done before the FD and company secretary can even think of climbing the FTSE250 pay ladder.

Besides falling revenues, last year saw the company fined £8.3m, one of the largest fines ever imposed by the Office of Fair Trading, for alleged price fixing replica football shirts. JJB has consistently denied any wrongdoing in relation to this charge.

After five years in practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and a further five as a financial controller in industry, the chartered accountant joined David Whelan at Whelan’s Discount Stores as financial controller in 1976.

The two men hit it off and have worked together ever since. Whelan, former footballer and JJB chairman, established the sports group in 1978.

But if Greenwood wants to become the longest-serving company FD in the FTSE250, he will have to outwit traditional rivals and the discount stores encroaching on his territory. It won’t be an easy match to win.

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