British clothing retailer Next on Thursday beat guidance for sales in the run-up to Christmas and raised its full-year profit outlook for a fifth time in ten months.
Next, which trades from about 500 stores and online, said full-price sales rose 20 per cent in the eight weeks to December 25th versus the same period in its 2019-20 year, before the pandemic impacted trading. That compares to guidance of a rise of 10.2 per cent.
Next, the first major British retailer to update on Christmas trading, said a strong online performance more than offset another fall in store sales.
Retail in the UK and Ireland showed a decline of 5.4 per cent in the fourth quarter of the year compared with pre-pandemic figures, and 24 per cent lower for the year. Total online sales were up 45 per cent in the fourth quarter and 49 per cent for the year.
Next forecast a full-year 2021-22 pretax profit of £822 million (€1.55 billion) up from the £800 million previously guided and up 9.8 per cent versus 2019-20.
Next has proved a resilient performer during the pandemic, benefiting from its long-established online operations.
Rivals with weaker or no online business, notably Primark , have seen large falls in sales. Others, such as Topshop-owner Arcadia, and Debenhams went bust.
Next said its initial guidance for the 2022-23 year is for full price sales to be up 7 per cent versus the current 2021-22 year ending January 2022. It estimated that pretax profit will be up 4.6 per cent at £860 million.
Next also declared a further special dividend of 160 pence per share to be paid at the end of January and said it intends to return to its pre-pandemic dividend cycle in the 2022-23 year. – Reuters