Next calls for Sunday boost as sales jump

 
Kasmira Jefford
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NEXT CHIEF executive Lord Simon Wolfson said a permanent relaxation of Britain’s Sunday trading hours could add £40-£50m to the fashion retailer’s annual turnover.

In Wednesday’s Budget chancellor George Osborne said he will introduce legislation lifting the six-hour limit on opening hours for larger stores over eight weekends from 22 July covering the Olympics.

Wolfson said: “We estimate the extension for the eight Olympic weekends will be worth an extra £5-£8m in like-for-like sales,” adding that he would welcome the liberalisation being made permanent.

He was speaking as the retailer unveiled a five per cent jump in underlying profits to £570m in the full year to the end of January 2012, at the top end of analyst estimates. Sales in stores open more than a year rose by 4.3 per cent to £3.44bn. Its online business, Next Directory in the UK and overseas, now accounts for more than a third of the group’s turnover. New store openings also added 2.9 per cent to group sales.

Next opened 24 homewear stores last year as well as launching its first large concept store combining Next Home and Fashion. It aims to open a further 14 of these “mini-department stores” over the next four years.

Wolfson remained cautious in his outlook for 2012, warning that constraits from continuing high unemployment, tight credit availability and instability in the Eurozone would outweigh much of the good prospects.