Next upgrades profit forecast after Christmas sales boost

A big rise in online sales the run up to Christmas has enabled retailer Next to lift its profit forecast for the year.

The uplift comes despite a 3.9 per cent fall in store sales over the same period – and a “disappointing” Boxing Day showing for the retail giant.

Next saw a sales bounce in the run up to Christmas
Alamy Live News

Thanks to the 15.3 per cent jump online, the fashion and home chain posted a 5.2 per cent increase in full price sales for the two months to December 28 – 1.1 per cent ahead of its previous forecasts.

Next – seen as a bellwether for the sector – now expects to post a full-year profit of around £727 million, £2 million more than previously forecast.

It said that the performance was helped by a “much colder November than last year and improved stock availability” in both retail stores and online.

But the retailer added: “Stock in our end-of-season Sale (including the stock we put into our Black Friday event) was down minus 2.9 per cent on last year and clearance rates to date have been slightly lower than our expectations.”

Even so, Richard Lim, chief executive of Retail Economics, commented: “This was an impressive end to the year as their outstanding online business continues to set them apart from the competition.

“The retailer is benefiting from years of investment in their digital proposition, continually evolving their business model to meet shoppers’ heightened expectations.”

How was it for other retailers?

DECEMBER saw the best monthly online sales since 2013 – up 24.5 per cent.

Figures from BDO show that December saw the best monthly online sales since 2013 – up 24.5 per cent.

That is according to consultancy BDO which added that the month was characterised by “deep and widespread discounting”, which may have lead bargain-hunters to part with their cash early ahead of January sales.

Homeare sales continued to improve, seeing an uplift of 4.2 per cent.

But the fashion sector suffered last month, dragged down by a significant drop of 9.03 per cent the week before Christmas. This marks the eighth negative December in a row for fashion.

Sophie Michael, from at BDO, said: “In terms of retail spending, December has provided a glimmer of hope for the retail sector as we saw positive first and last weeks of the month as well as a good month for lifestyle and homewares.

“However, this was boosted by extreme discounting, which was qualitatively different this year.

“Black Friday never quite ended and instead saw sales continue throughout the month.”

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