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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 January 2006, 09:33 GMT
Tough Christmas trading for Next
Christmas sales shoppers at Next store on London's Oxford Street
Next launched its winter sale on 27 December
Fashion retailer Next has reported a 3.2% fall in like-for-like sales in the five months up to the end of December.

But sales including Next Directory and new stores rose by nearly 10% compared with last year.

Next said it now expected to report full year pre-tax profits of 435-450m, beating analyst forecasts of 420m.

It said that trading would remain tough over the next six months, although it would grow overall sales by opening new retail space.

The sales figures are an improvement on Next's last trading update, and the retailer's shares have risen by 7.5% on the news.

But chief executive Simon Wolfson said the recovery in sales was driven by the cold weather seen before Christmas, rather than a revival in consumer sentiment.

In September, Next reported the worst trading environment in 10 years, with like-for-like sales at its stores down 6% for the previous six weeks.

It warned of a tough retail environment "all the way to Christmas".

Next is the first of a raft of major retail companies expected to give Christmas trading updates over the coming weeks.

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