Shares in JD Sports Fashion hit a record high after strong demand for leisurewear items helped to drive a 55% rise in headline annual pretax profit, its biggest increase in eight years. 

JD Sports alongside its core sports retail business also runs fashion and outdoor retail outlets such as Scotts and Blacks.

It said today that its headline profit before tax and exceptional items rose to a record £244.8m from £157.1m a year ago. 

The company said that like-for-like store sales at its core sports fashion business rose 10% although the company said it was "unreasonable" to growth to be maintained at this level. 

The company, which rivals Mike Ashley-owned Sports Direct, warned that external influences, such as inflationary pressures arising from Brexit, may impact trading in the latter part of the year. 

JD Sports has exploited the growing demand for sports branded shoes and clothes to overtake Sports Direct as the UK's biggest sportswear retailer by market value.

But both companies have come under fire over poor working conditions. 

The company added 54 stores to its portfolio in mainland Europe and said that first JD store in Australia is due to open shortly. 

JD said that the weakening of sterling against the US dollar will cause some headwinds on margin in 2017 but it backed itself to mitigate against the impact.