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Next sees improvement in customer confidence.

Group expects a tougher second half and a flat outcome for the full year.

CITY & CORPORATE

Next sees improvement in customer confidence.

Pre-tax profit for the six months to 25 July rose 7 per cent to £185.5m from revenue up to £1.51bn from £1.5bn in 2008.

Sales in Retail and Directory were both 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 sales were 1.7 per cent ahead of last year.Active customers grew by 2.8 per cent to 2.26m. Sales grew by less than the customer base as individuals moderated their spending in the current economic climate.

Next said that even if the economy technically comes out of recession "we can see no reason for the consumer outlook to significantly change through the rest of this year. We are conservatively planning for Retail like-for-like sales to be in the range -3.5 per cent to -6.5 per cent and Directory sales to be 0 per cent to +2 per cent"

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