Next raises profit hopes

Next lifted its profit hopes today as new stores and strong online sales gave the retail giant shelter from the stormy climate on the high street.

The fashion and homewares chain, which has around 540 stores, saw total sales rise 4.5 per cent in the 26 weeks to July 28 as outlet sales edged 0.2 per cent ahead and online Next Directory rose 13.3 per cent.

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The group said the store performance was helped by new space offsetting lower sales from shops open more than a year.

It now expects profits of between £575 million and £620 million for the year to January 31, up from an earlier forecast of between £560 million and £610 million.

Chief executive Lord Simon Wolfson admitted that without the larger online business and 300,000 sq ft added in the period, Next would be in a similar position as rivals such as Marks & Spencer, which recently revealed its worst trading performance for three years.