Belfast Telegraph

Next's 19% profit leap trumps rivals

By Clare Weir

Fashion chain Next has claimed it is experiencing its strongest growth in years after half-year profits jumped 19% to £324.2m.

The company saw sales rise 10.3% to £1.8bn after launching new stores and lines.

It also benefited from the improving economy, low interest rates, the increasing availability of credit and a warm summer.

The group overtook Marks & Spencer with a £695m annual profits haul earlier this year. It has now reiterated its guidance to lift this to between £775m and £815m next year.

For the first time in several years, Next's retail business contributed more to the growth of the company than its online UK Directory business, with profits from retail leaped 22.6% to £152.3m.

Next Directory grew profit 10.2% to £172.1m, with sales in the UK growing 11.5%.

Next forecasts it will grow by 10% in the third quarter and 4% in the final quarter of this year.

Expert Donald McFetridge, from the University of Ulster Business School, said it was unsurprising the firm had reported another outstanding set of results.

"When it comes to deciding what is going to sell, Next has the knack of getting it right," he added. "Seldom do their design or buying teams make any major errors, unlike their high street rivals M&S, who repeatedly get it wrong .

"Next is a company to watch and learn from. They enjoy a high street presence and portfolio of just exactly the right size, and the shape of their estate is envied by their competitors. All this has augured well in favour of a company which is still very young."

Belfast Telegraph