The launch of Next Directory some 30 years ago has been cited as one of the key reasons why the retailer is managing to weather the high street storm after a new jump in online sales has contributed to the company’s better than expected results.
The results shows that while sales at its shops fell 6.9% to £925.1m, online sales jumped 16.8% to £892.3m, and, as a result, total group sales were up 3.8% to £1.98bn and pre-tax profit rose 0.5% to £311.1m.
Next chief executive Lord Wolfson said the company “had expected sales gained in July would be offset by losses in August. As it turned out, we did not experience any material loss of sales in August or early September”.
However, he added: “The UK retail market remains volatile, subject to powerful structural and cyclical changes. As expected, sales in our stores continue to be challenging.”
But retail analyst Julie Palmer of Begbies Traynor said Next’s continued success owed much to its early entry into catalogue sales with the launch of Next Directory the late Eighties: “This was a natural fit with the subsequent rise of online shopping and gave Next a distinct advantage, which they still benefit from 30 years later.” Next’s rivals were “light years behind” and would “continue to struggle”, she warned.
Next said it was well advanced in its preparations in case neither a transition period nor a free-trade agreement were in place by the time of Brexit next March. It insisted the no-deal risks did not pose a “material threat to the ongoing operations and profitability” of Next in the UK or EU.
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