Belfast Telegraph

Next wins end-of-year battle with sales up 3.9% due to online help

By Annabelle Dixon

Next posted a 3.9% rise in sales for November and December as the retailer weathered the difficult conditions on the high street.

Shares opened 4% higher after the chain said the festive performance meant it was on track for profits growth at the top end of expectations.

The group was driven by a strong online performance, with Directory revenues up by 11.2% between November 1 and December 24. Store sales were better than many City expectations, at 0.8% higher than a year ago.

Despite the news, chief executive Simon Wolfson warned trading conditions were likely to remain difficult this year as wage growth continues to lag behind inflation.

He said: "On balance, we expect the consumer environment to remain subdued but steady."

Next said group pre-tax profits for the year to January were now expected to jump by between 7.1% and 9.6%, taking the figure to between £611m and £625m.

It said the better-than-expected performance reflected cost controls, less marked-down stock in the sale and better margins.

Next, which has more than 500 shops, plans to create a further 250,000sq ft of retail space this year, including a net increase of 10 new shops.

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