High street’s unlikely innovator

Elizabeth Fournier
ONCE again it looks like Next will buck the depressing high street trend on Wednesday, as analysts predict a much more rosy set of results from the retailer than we’ve seen from its rivals.

The chain’s garish bling-trimmed kit for Team GB may not have been a resounding success, but when it comes to business basics Lord Wolfson seems to have it sewn up.

From evolving the Directory business into a flourishing online presence as early as 1999 to launching standalone homeware stores this year, Next has maintained its reputation as a multi-channel innovator. Wolfson’s latest push into the huge Chinese-speaking market is the latest example of this, and though the brand lacks the luxury heritage of the traditional British brands popular across Asia, Jubilee and Olympic fever mean the Union Jack collaboration with Geri Halliwell should attract attention.

Investec is calling Directory sales up 11.4 per cent, offsetting a forecast three per cent drop in overall retail, and with next-day delivery on orders placed as late as 9pm, it’s easy to see why it was a welcome alternative during the recent dreadful weather. Next has set the bar high, and its boldness is paying off.