Next improves as the weather improves

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Next, Britain’s second biggest clothing retailer, posted a small rise in quarterly sales, with trade picking up after a slow start to its financial year as the weather improved.

Next, which trades from over 500 stores in Britain and Ireland and almost 200 stores overseas, as well as via a Directory internet and catalogue business, said yesterday total sales rose 2.2 per cent in the 14 weeks to May 4, its fiscal first quarter.

The outcome was consistent with previous sales guidance for the full 2013-14 year of growth of between 1 per cent and 4 per cent. That guidance was maintained.

“Trading has been volatile and particularly poor through March and early April. The marked upturn in sales in mid-April corresponds to the break in the very cold weather,” the firm said.

Retail sales fell 1.9 per cent, while Directory sales were up 8.9 per cent.

Many retailers have been finding the going tough as household incomes continue to fall behind the rate of inflation.

Next has generally defied the economic gloom, helped by its strong online offer, a constant stream of new store openings and diversification into homewares and overseas markets.

However, it said it remained cautious about the consumer environment.

“We anticipate that the continuing decline in real earnings will depress discretionary spending for at least the next 18 months, if not longer,” it said.