Next profits up but warns of "subdued" 2012

The head of Next, Britain's second largest clothing retailer, said he expected the UK consumer mood to remain subdued in 2012.

"I don't think things are going to get any worse than last year, they may get slightly better, but I don't think they're going to get a lot better," Chief Executive Simon Wolfson said.

He said the benefit to the British consumer of falling inflation was being offset by unemployment and tight credit availability.

He is also worried that a worsening of the Eurozone debt crisis will hit UK consumer sentiment.

Wolfson, a prominent supporter of Britain's ruling Conservative Party who sits in the upper house of Parliament, said the most important aspect of finance minister George Osborne's Budget statement on Wednesday was that it was balanced.

"From UK Plc's point of view the most important thing is the government remains solvent," he said.

He said as the government had very limited room for manoeuvre the Budget's measures would not have much impact on the UK consumer.

The chief executive was speaking after Next posted a five per cent rise in 2011-12 profit and said it was budgeting for 2012-13 profit in a range of down two per cent to up seven per cent.