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Next boss Wolfson calls for permanent Sunday trading

Next boss Lord Wolfson has urged the Government to extend Sunday trading laws permanently.

Wolfson said the temporary extension over the Olympics, unveiled in this week’s Budget, would boost business for Next.

He said: “It will add £5m to £8m to sales in that period of time and we will be enthusiastic for any extension of that.”

Sunday trading has divided the retail community. Giants such as Debenhams and Tesco have welcomed the move but others like Select have suggested that the budget’s focus on supporting those on a lower income through raising the threshold in personal tax allowance would have a wider impact on the bottom line.

Wolfson threw his backing behind the extension when unveiling Next’s full year results yesterday (March 22). Underlying profit before tax jumped 5% to £570.3m in its financial year ending January despite a dip in retail sales.

Total retail sales dropped 1.4% and Wolfson estimated that like-for-likes, excluding online, dropped 5% in the face of “anaemic” consumer demand.

Online and new store space drove the retailer’s growth. Directory sales jumped 16.4% over the year and now accounts for 42% of profits.

Wolfson expects this trend to continue. He said like-for-like declines in its current year, which he estimated would wipe £43m from profits, to be more than offset by gains from the Directory and new retail space, which he expects to add £34m and £32m to profits respectively.

The Next boss said retailers could expect “another tough year”.

He said consumers would benefit from inflation coming into line with earnings growth, however the subdued employment market and difficulty in obtaining credit would negate any gain.

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