Beleaguered outdoor retailer Blacks Leisure Group Plc has confirmed that "radical change" is required to boost its performance, after posting full-year results below expectations.

For the year ended 1 March, the company narrowed its pre-tax loss to GBP9.3m (US$18.4m) from GBP13.8m a year earlier, despite being hit by an exceptional charge of GBP9.6m linked to accounting errors and the closure of 45 stores.

Revenues fell 1.3% to GBP294.4m from GBP 298.3m last time, with retail like-for-like sales across the group virtually flat at a 0.4% decline.

The Outdoor division, which consists of Blacks and Millets, nearly tripled its operating profit to GBP7.4m from GBP2.5m a year earlier.

But this was offset by poor performance at the Boardwear division, which runs O'Neill and Freespirit, which posted a GBP3.2m loss for the year compared to a profit of GBP1.3m the year before.

CEO Neil Gillis, who joined the group in November, admitted that achieving a turnaround "will not be easy," but he pointed to a "reduction in central costs, the improvement in store scheduling," as steps that have already been taken.

The two Boardwear businesses, Freespirit and Sandcity, have also been combined at the company's Northampton head office and warehouse. 

The company is carrying 15% fewer product lines for the autumn/winter season and expects to narrow its supply base going forward.

It is also trying to make its outdoor clothing and equipment more contemporary and fashionable and has recruited new managers with backgrounds at Marks & Spencer and Gap to improve retail standards.

Gillis said the group has made a solid start to the new financial year.

Total sales in the 12 weeks to 24 May fell by 5.2% and like-for-like sales decreased by 4.1%.

But gross margin at 55.2% is 350 basis points up year-on-year after a period of heavy price discounting last year.

"The first half outlook will depend on the key second quarter and the success of our improved camping and summer clothing lines," he said.