Warm December weather hits sales at Next

Next today posted a fall in store sales and sharp slowdown in its Next Directory business for the pr

Next today posted a fall in store sales and sharp slowdown in its Next Directory business for the pre-Christmas period. - Credit: PA

Fashion retailer Next today blamed unseasonably warm weather for a “disappointing” performance in the run-up to Christmas as it posted a fall in store sales and a sharp slowdown in its Next Directory business.

Next said full-price sales fell 0.5% across its stores in the 60 days to December 24, while sales across its Next Directory online and catalogue arm lifted 2%.

Next said its trading woes were compounded by poor stock availability from October and tougher online competition.

Its worse-than-expected festive performance means the group expects full-year profits to come in towards the bottom end of its forecast, at £817million, although this would still be a 4.4% increase on the previous year.

Next, which holds off from discounting until Boxing Day, said that, while the warm weather was the main reason for its disappointing trading, “we would not want to allow difficult trading conditions to mask any mistakes and challenges faced by the business”.

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It added: “Specifically, we believe that Next Directory’s disappointing sales were compounded by poor stock availability from October onwards. In addition, the online competitive environment is getting tougher as industry-wide service propositions catch up with the Next Directory.”

The overall performance for full-price brand sales across stores and Next Directory were 0.4% higher for the 60 days to Christmas Eve, a sharp slowdown on the 3.3% growth seen in its half-year to July.

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This has left sales for the year to date up 3.7%, running below previous guidance, although the group said its move not to discount ahead of Christmas meant its full-year profit range was maintained at between £810m and £845m.

Next is the first of the major retailers to unveil festive trading figures and sets the scene for what is expected to have been a tough Christmas for clothing chains after mild weather in November and December led to widespread discounting.

Department store chain John Lewis will reveal how it fared tomorrow while Marks & Spencer will deliver its verdict on festive trading on Thursday, with the City pencilling in a 2% drop in M&S’s general merchandise sales, including fashion.

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