By Marcus Leach

Next, the clothing retailer, reported that sales were up 3.1%, in line with the full year guidance range given in November of between 2.5% and 4.0%.

The strong performance of Next Directory continued to compensate for slightly disappointing Next retail store sales.

"We did not discount our products in the run up to Christmas and maintained operating margins," a statement on the company's website said.

"We continue to expect full year profit before tax on continuing business to be in line with our previous guidance. We are now narrowing our guidance range to £7m either side of £565m.

"This figure would represent an increase in profit of +4.0% on last year. Next’s main financial objective is the delivery of sustainable long term growth in earnings per share, which have been further enhanced through cash generation and share buybacks. At a profit of £565m our EPS would be +11.3% ahead of last year."

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