High-street fashion and home wear retailer Next Plc has soared past its first-half profit expectations, but warns of less impressive second-half results.

The company reported a 30 per cent surge in profits to £162.7 million for the first half of the year, compared to a predicted £145m.

Sales increased 15 per cent to £1.294 billion. On a like-for-like basis, sales at 285 stores were up 4.7 per cent.

Finance director David Keens told Reuters: "The [summer] sale was very good, but what was arguably more important was strong full-price sales.

"We had less stock going into the sale than last year, and less stock means it was easier to clear it."

However, expectations for the second half of fiscal 2004 are not quite as promising, with Next warning its outstanding first half results will be difficult to maintain.

Keens said: "We've had such an exceptional first half, we don't expect that sort of pattern to continue into the second half."

As well as its 330 UK and Ireland stores Next franchises about 50 stores elsewhere in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East

Revenue comes from its retail stores, its Next Directory catalogue, a website, and Ventura, a division which provides call centre and customer support services for other firms.