Total group sales at Next were up +5.4% in the six months to July 2023, chiefly thanks to fashion sales gains driven by good weather and nominal wage increases.
Profit before tax was £420m (up +4.8%), with brand full-price sales growth increasing from +1.8% to +2.6%. Next has accordingly revised its full-year PBT guidance from £845m to £875m (up +0.5% YoY).
Retail (store-based) full-price sales were up +0.9%, and LFL full-price sales up +2.9%. Total sales (including markdown sales) were up +0.5%, and profit up +2.0%.
Next is forecasting that H2 full-price retail sales will be down -1.7% YoY, and says it expects to close 11 mainline stores this year.
Although it plans to reduce the space occupied by concessions in its stores, Next has signalled the opening of a Made furniture concession in Sheffield by December.
"The uncomfortable transition of sales from retail to online appears to have slowed to a more manageable level, not least because less than 35% of our sales are now in shops," states the retailer. "Alongside this change, retail property costs have dropped to levels more in line with current trading volumes."
Next admits that its was "overly cautious about the prospects for sales in the current year", adding that inflationary pressures on selling prices and operating costs will likely continue to ease into 2024/25.