Earlier today, Next reported like-for-like retail sales had fallen 3.2% in the year ended January and warned that like-for-like sales were likely to fall back further to between -4% and -7% in the first half of this year.
Wolfson predicted that sales in the first quarter of the year would be worse than in the second quarter. He added: "The year ahead will be difficult, but not dire. We won’t devalue the brand by increasing markdown activity...We don't want to see increased levels of discounting, like some competitors. Brand integrity will be the most important thing when we come to the end of the downturn."
Wolfson said the retailer would have 50% less stock in its UK retail business in the first half of 2008/09 compared to last year. He said he expected spending to slow overall but added that womenswear and menswear would be worst hit and that kidswear would be less prone to penny pinching.
Separately Wolfson said that almost 75% of Next's retail stores would be revamped with its new shop fit by the end of this year. The group expects to spend about £37m on refitting existing stores this year. Wolfson added that he planned to open 400,000 sq ft of new space in the UK this year, in locations where there was not already a Next store.