RETAIL UPDATE: Next asks for upgrade

Better than expected first half for retailer; City should upgrade profit forecasts for 2009.
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The chief executive of Next has said that the retailer's progress in the first half of the year has been better than expected, with the business proving itself "resilient" in the face of a weak consumer environment.

Sales in both retail and Next Directory were ahead of initial expectations. Full price VAT exclusive retail like for like sales were down 1.2 per cent (although full price sales benefited from a smaller end of season sale).

Additional sales from new space meant that total retail sales were marginally ahead of last year at 0.8 per cent.

Directory finished up 1.7 per cent. Overall, Next Brand sales were up 1.0 per cent.

The firm's outlook for the second half of the year remains cautious, however the retailer has upgraded previous guidance on full year net operating margins. It expects full year profits to be close to last year's £429m.

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