The warm weather arrives to cheer up Next

THE hot weather has helped the fashion and homeware chain Next to fight back from a sales slump it suffered during the big freeze earlier this year.

Next at the Leeds Trinity Shopping Centre

Takings in stores were down 0.9 per cent for the half-year to the end of July, but this included a period at the start of the year when they fell 1.9 per cent.

Performance was boosted by stay-at-home online and catalogue shopping, up 8.3 per cent, giving Next an overall 2.3 per cent sales increase, in line with expectations.

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A breakdown of total week-by-week sales showed how they had dipped alarmingly during the cold weather, falling by around £12m in the week to April 6.

But tills were set ringing again as the thaw set in and the sun came out, with a number of weeks in April, May, June and July showing improvements. The company said weekly sales volatility showed how consumers were becoming more spontaneous in their buying habits, affected by short-term events such as the weather, Bank Holidays and school holidays.

There was a smaller end-of-season sale period, when takings dropped compared to last year.

Next said the period leading up to July 13 when the discounts started showed revenues up 3.7 per cent, reflecting better full-price sales.

The company said the combined effect of higher full-price sales and lower markdowns added £10m to first-half profits.

It increased its forecast for full-year pre-tax earnings from a range between £615m and £665m to a bracket of £635m to £675m. Shares in the FTSE 100 listed retailer rose yesterday.

Numis analyst Matthew Taylor said: “Next benefited from improved high street conditions as the sun shone through June/July against a lacklustre 2012 summer.”

Cantor’s Kate Calvert said: “While sales were in-line with expectations, profitability has been better with less stock going into the sale and lower mark-down cost.”

Next has a store in the £350m Trinity Leeds development, which opened earlier this year and is 95 per cent let.