Next sales fall 5.9% in ‘difficult’ third quarter

The retailer is under pressure
The retailer is under pressure

Retail giant Next has revealed more trading woes as it said high street sales fell 5.9% in the third quarter (Q3).

The fashion chain said full-price sales slumped as much as 7% in August in the wake of a large end-of-season sale the month before.

But the group, which had already warned over a “difficult” Q3, said trading had improved since September, with full-price sales rising by 1.3% in October.

Overall sales across its stores and Next Directory arm fell 3.5% in the three months to October 31, with sales flat across the online and catalogue division.

Next said the Q3 performance has marginally lowered its central full-year sales expectations, with the group now forecasting a range from a fall of 1.75% to a rise of 1.25%.

Next boss Lord Wolfson has already warned that 2016 was set to be the “toughest we have faced since 2008’’, warning over a shift in consumer spending away from fashion towards eating out and travel.

He has also cautioned that the busienss may have to raise prices by up to 5% next year as it faces surging costs from the Brexit-hit pound.

The group said Q3 was particularly painful as it followed a “much larger” end-of-season sale in July, as well as tough comparisons from a year earlier, when September was its best month.

Fashion chains have also been knocked by an unseasonably warm start to autumn, which has dented demand for warmer clothing ranges.

Despite that, Next said its central full-year profits outlook remained unchanged at a mid-point of £805 million thanks to better-than-expected cost savings.

Its profits forecast range - from £785m to £825m - pencils in a worst-case scenario of a fall of 4.4% to a rise of 0.5% on the year before.

Shares in the firm leapt 4% higher as the update signalled the trading slump was easing off, with sales higher in October.

Jonathan Pritchard, at Peel Hunt, said: “These aren’t vintage times, but Next is in good enough form to ride that wave.”