Next surprises with warning of autumn lull

Marion Dakers
SHARES in Next tumbled 7.2 per cent yesterday after the fashion chain braced investors for a slow autumn.

The group announced a better-than-expected 10.2 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £251.3m for the six months to July.

But Next spooked the markets by admitted that sales were “disappointing” in August and early September.

Revenues in the period rose 4.8 per cent to £1.64bn, though like-for-like store sales fell slightly, knocking £18m from the firm’s profits.

Next still intends to met full-year expectations, and plans to continue buying back shares with £70m of purchases in the second half.

Chief executive Simon Wolfson told City A.M. that Next’s role as stockist of official London 2012 clothing had done little to boost moribund summer takings.

“It wasn’t enough to make a big difference in what was a quiet period. But I think it was a nice thing to do,” he said.

Next said the relaxed Sunday trading rules in the run-up to the Olympics had been “generally positive” for the firm, though the difficult trading conditions made it tricky to put a number on the gains.

“We are convinced that particularly in the run-up to Christmas there would be a real benefit. Not necessarily all year,” Wolfson added.

Next will recruit temporary staff for the Christmas rush in “numbers comparable to previous years”, he said.