Sports apparel and footwear retailer John David Group Plc on Thursday revealed it swung to a first half loss and said finance director Malcolm Blackhurst is to leave to pursue other interests.

The owner of the JD Sports chain said its operating loss before exceptionals for the six months ended July 31 was £1.5 million compared with an £11.1m profit last year as it was hurt by the integration of the First Sport banner.

It added same-store sales in the first nine weeks of the second half were down 4.5 per cent but margins were up. The firm has axed 21 loss-making stores this year and will close a further 16 during the second half.

Executive chairman Roger Best said: "Our financial results for the first half of the year have been disappointing as the group has continued to deal with operational issues surrounding the integration of First Sport stores.

"The management team has developed a turnaround strategy which clearly sets out a long-term direction for the group and has the full backing of the board, including the founder shareholders."