Next warns of post Brexit price hike

Next says trading conditions will remain tough for the rest of the year
Next says trading conditions will remain tough for the rest of the year

High street giant Next warned it may have to hike prices in the face of soaring costs after the pound has plunged in value since the Brexit vote.

CEO Lord Wolfson said the group may be forced to put up price tags next year, but said any rise was likely to be “less than 5%”.

Next estimated that importing clothes from overseas suppliers will push up costs in the year to the end of January 2018 by up to 5%.

The comments came as Next posted another fall in full-price sales at its high street stores - down 3.3% for its retail shops in the second quarter to the end of July, while its Next Directory arm saw sales rise 5.7%.

But the drop was not as bad as feared, while a robust end-of-season sale performance also helped limit the fall in total store sales, including markdowns, to 0.7%.

Lord Wolfson - who backed the Brexit campaign - said there was no clear evidence of a hit to consumer confidence since the vote to leave the EU, although he cautioned trading conditions will remain tough for the rest of the year.

He said: “We’ve seen evidence of a consumer slowdown since October.

“The Brexit vote hasn’t really altered consumer confidence one way or the other - the consumer environment was tough before the vote and remains tough,” he added.

The group is expecting sales falls to worsen in a “particularly challenging” third quarter as it also comes up against tough comparisons from a year earlier, although the all-important Christmas season may see some improvement after mild weather hit the end of 2015/2016.

Next said it had been able to protect itself against falls in the value of the pound for the current year to January 2017, but that its input costs could rise by around 9% for the next financial year.

It is hoping to offset much of this, partly by increasing product buying from areas such as Bangladesh, Cambodia and Burma, while improved sourcing in China may also help.