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Next cautious despite profits rise

Next said it is remaining "very cautious" despite building its advantage over rival Marks & Spencer with a 12% rise in annual profits.

The surplus of £782.2 million comes after a year in which overall sales topped £4 billion for the first time with an increase of 7.2%.

Next, which last year beat the profits figure achieved by rival M&S, said it hopes to make as much as £835 million in the current financial year.

However, it remains cautious about prospects and has pencilled in sales growth of between 1.5% and 5.5% in the current year.

This is weaker than the range of 2.5% and 7.5% the company forecast in December.

Next chief executive Lord Wolfson said it would be a mistake to be over-optimistic despite the company's recent progress.

He added: "Although the consumer economy looks benign, we remain very cautious in our sales budgets.

"Whilst we are happy with most of our current product ranges, we recognise that some collections are not as strong as they were at this point last year.

"In addition, during the Spring and Summer seasons, we face very tough comparative numbers from last year, when sales were assisted by unusually warm weather."

Shares opened more than 3% lower today.

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