Next sales edge up despite volatile trade in March
Fashion and homewares retailer Next has posted a small rise in its first quarter sales despite the cold weather in March leading to a fall in sales at its high street stores.
Total sales rose by 2.2% in the 14 weeks to 4 May, of which 1.5% came from the opening of new stores. Retail sales in Next's high street stores were down 1.9% as trade was impacted by the unseasonably cold weather in March and early April. However Next Directory sales, which includes online and catalogue sales, increased by 8.9%.
The retailer said trading had been volatile in March and early April although there had been a marked upturn in sales in mid-April when the weather warmed up.
In statement the company said: "It is apparent that the poor March figures were down to an abnormally cold spring, equally the good weeks since mid April have been boosted by pent up demand from the previous month. We believe that neither period is indicative of any significant change in the underlying economy."
Next is confident of meeting its sales guidance range for the full year of +1% to +4% and a profit range of £615 million to £665 million.
Commenting on the results, Heikki Haldre founder and chief executive of virtual fitting room Fits.me said: "Retailer success in the future lies in providing a fun, flexible, helpful, convenient platform that turns browsers into customers, regardless of how they choose to shop. If retailers can do this then, as and when market conditions eventually improve, they should be well-positioned to record sharp growth.
"A good first step is to find helpful solutions that maintain or increase online sales, even if gross sales are down, by reducing returns. Something like 25% of clothing bought online is returned and, if like Next you sell a third of your stock online, you don’t even need to reduce returns by very much to offset a small decline in gross sales across all channels."
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