Like-for-like sales are improving at retailer JD Sports Fashion, despite strongly contrasting trends from the company’s two main divisions.

The UK business said like-for-like sales for its core UK sports and fashion shops were up 1.5% in the 16 weeks to 17 November, up from a 1.1% increase in the six months to 28 July.

However, while sports outlets delivered like-for-like sales growth of 3.5%, fashion outlets were down 6.6%, reflecting what JD Sports called a “tough” trading environment.

The company highlighted the recent appointment of former Cotswold Outdoor buying and merchandising director Ken Reeve as the new MD of Blacks, adding that early signs following investment in stores were “encouraging for the future”.

In an analyst note, Investec Securities described the sports performance as good, adding: “We remain very confident for prospects here, given the good own-brand mix and growth opportunities both internationally and via multi-channel.”

JD Sports said it remained on track to deliver earnings in line with current expectations, but added that much depended on the vital Christmas trading period, which it will report on 10 January.