Next boosted by sales rush

NEXT, the high street clothing retailer, yesterday brought some sunshine to the City by raising its annual profit forecast by &pound;30m in an early trading update.<br /><br />Chief executive Simon Wolfson said: &ldquo;Six months ago we were billed as optimists for saying the world wasn&rsquo;t going to end. And it hasn&rsquo;t.&rdquo;<br /><br />The fashion chain, which has around 500 stores across Britain and Ireland said that warm weather had boosted summer clothes sales by two to three per cent. The knock-on effect of shoppers stocking up on shorts and sandals lifted total Next sales by 1.4 per cent. Like-for-like sales were down by 1.9 per cent, an improved performance from the four to seven per cent fall it forecast in May. The group&rsquo;s Next Directory sales lifted by 1.3 per cent.<br /><br />As a result of the improved trading Next said it now expects to make &pound;15m more profit that it has previously forecast in the first half of this year. And the group added &pound;15m to forecasts for the second half due to sourcing and product negotiations outperforming expectations.<br /><br />Wolfson said the group&rsquo;s strategy of holding back on frequent price-slashing promotions and instead sticking &ldquo;religiously&rdquo; to its end of season sales had paid off.<br /><br />Wolfson rebuffed the doomsayers saying: &ldquo;If you relied on markets you would think the worst, but the underlying reality is there has been just a modest consumer downturn.&rdquo;<br /><br />He added that sales of the ranges Next provided to shoppers were dictated &ldquo;by fashion, not economics&rdquo;.