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Next boosted by Directory sales

Next saw group pre-tax profit rise 4.1% to £498 million for the year to January 2008, helped by a robust performance by Next Directory business and good cost controls.

Sales at Next Directory rose 3.3% to £799.8m. However sales were flat at the retail chain at £2.2 billion over the period and like-for-like sales were down 3.2% for the year. The resulting group sales were broadly flat at £3 bn.

Next said that performance during spring 07 and autumn 07 had been in line with guidance and that it had successfully revitalised the Next brand and shifted its buying to introduce newness into its ranges every six weeks.

However chief executive Simon Wolfson warned that the Next customer would be the worst hit in the economic downturn but said: “Against a downbeat economic outlook we are more positive about the health of the underlying Next business.

"We believe our ranges have made good progress and that the Next Brand is in much better shape than at the same time last year. As a result we are basing our internal budgets for the first half on retail like-for-like sales of between -4% and -7% and Directory sales of between 0% and +2%.”

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