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Business

Shoe store chain ABC-Mart seen beating profit forecast

Wider selection of Nike, Adidas and other brands lifted Japanese retailer

ABC-Mart is seeing robust demand for brand-name sneakers.

TOKYO -- Footwear retailer ABC-Mart's operating profit probably grew by a better-than-expected 3% to about 43 billion yen ($406 million) in the year ended February, as a bigger lineup of foreign shoe brands helped drive sales during the end-of-year holiday season.

The Japanese company looks likely to beat its group operating profit forecast of a 2% increase to 42.5 billion yen, marking a 15th straight year of growth.

Sales apparently rose 6% to nearly 255 billion yen, lifted by pricier brands such as Nike and Adidas. An unusually snowy winter created extra demand for boots and other winter footwear. Sales of women's shoes, which were sluggish in fiscal 2016, seem to have bottomed out, thanks partly to television advertisements.

ABC-Mart attracted more customers as it opened about 60 stores in downtown areas and in malls, and added locations of chains that cater to women and children. The retailer also refurbished about 30 stores in order to expand floor space and improve the look of its displays.

In addition, ABC-Mart saw more Chinese and other foreign visitors shopping at its stores. Online sales also grew.

In South Korea, where ABC-Mart operates about 200 locations, sales grew but probably fell short of its forecast. Business appears to have taken a hit from Chinese restrictions on group tours to South Korea following Seoul's decision to deploy a U.S. missile defense system.

Results for fiscal 2017 are due out April 10. In the current fiscal year, ABC-Mart aims to expand a chain geared to the "athleisure" trend of wearing sportswear in everyday settings.

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