Next sales rise defies gloom

RETAILER Next saw total sales rise 3.2 per cent as the company’s directory business fuelled growth, it said in its half yearly trading statement yesterday.

Next Directory, which consists of its home shopping catalogue and online store, reported a 15.1 per cent rise in sales in the 26 weeks to 30 July compared to the same period last year – well ahead of the retailer’s store network, which experienced a 1.7 per cent decline.

Next said it expected full-year profit forecasts to be in line with previous guidance of between £527m and £577m.

Chief executive Simon Wolfson (pictured) said: “My view is that the underlying economy remains subdued. There’s nothing in any of the numbers that I look at, whether it be inflation, or employment or unemployment numbers, that would suggest that the situation’s going to get any worse.”

He predicted pressure from rising costs, like higher cotton prices, would ease next year, and said price cuts for shoppers were a possibility.

Next’s average selling prices rose about seven per cent in its first half and Wolfson expects them to be up about eight per cent in the second half before stabilising.