RETAIL UPDATE: We're well placed to weather downturn, says Next

Balance sheet remains robust and focus will continue on developing new ranges in clothing and homewares.
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The combined sales of Next Retail and Next Directory for the period from July 29th to December 24th 2008 were down 1.9 per cent compared to the same period last year.

But, while Next Retail sales were down three per cent - and like for like sales in the 347 stores that were unaffected by new openings were down seven per cent - Next Directory sales rose slightly by 1.1 per cent for the period.

Like for like sales were also within the guidance range of - four to - seven per cent that Next gave in September and repeated in November.

The company's full-year profit forecast for the year to January 2009 remains in line with previous expectations and current market consensus. The majority of City profit forecasts are currently in the range of £415 million to £435 million.

Next said that while it anticipates that consumer demand will remain weak during 2009, it would caution against some of the more extreme economic forecasts.

It also stated that it is well placed to weather the downturn, with a robust balance sheet. The chain's priority remains the development of the Next brand and its focus will continue on the development of new ranges of clothing and home products.

The firm will issue its preliminary results for the 52 weeks to January 24th 2009 on March 26th. The first quarterly trading statement will be in early May.

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