Next sales rose 11.9% over the Christmas trading period

Next sales rose 11.9% over the Christmas trading period

Fashion retailer Next Plc has raised its profit forecast after a strong Christmas in which sales were "significantly ahead of expectations."

The company said total sales rose 11.9% in the period from 1 November to 24 December compared with the same period last year.

Gains of 7.7% were seen in its retail stores, while a 21% hike in sales was posted by its Directory business, which includes e-commerce.

The performance means Next is raising its forecast for full-year profits for the year to 25 January to be between GBP684m and GBP700m (US$1.13bn - US$1.15bn).

The retailer previously expected full-year profits of GBP650m to GBP680m, a year-on-year increase of 4.6%-9.4%.

Next said the step-up in Christmas trade was mainly due to improvements in its seasonal knitwear, nightwear and gift offers. It also said customers continued to shop with Next Directory right up to the weekend before Christmas. 

But it cautioned: "It is therefore very unlikely that the strength shown in this quarter will continue through the first half of the new financial year, and of course this year's success will present difficult comparative numbers in the fourth quarter next year."

The company also warned that even though the economy looks set to continue to improve, little or no growth in real earnings means there is unlikely to be any significant increase in total consumer spending in the year ahead. 

Among the Christmas trading updates released so far, department store retailer House of Fraser has reported its "best ever" Christmas trading period, helped by strong fashion and online sales.

But Debenhams has disappointed, parting company with its CFO after issuing a post-Christmas profit warning.