Relief rally for retail shares as Next cheers

Laura Onita
Jumper: demand for Next’s warmer clothes amid cold weather helped boost sales: Next

The City heaved a sigh of relief on Wednesday after High Street bell-wether Next’s surprise rise in Christmas sales drove rivals’ shares up.

The fashion chain kicked off the crucial festive reporting season on an upbeat note, saying cold weather led to unexpectedly strong sales in the run-up to Christmas.

Chief executive Lord Wolfson said: “The weather would have been good for most retailers that sell hats and knitwear.

“Everyone will have experienced significant growth in their online [business].”

Next’s shares rose 7% to 4834p , sending shares in Marks & Spencer up 2.6% and Debenhams 3.5%.

The retailer said full-price sales were up 1.5% in the 54 days to December 24, beating its own gloomy predictions of a 0.3% decline. However, store sales were down 6.1% — but online up 13.6%.

Next has now upgraded its profit guidance for the year by £8 million to between £718 million and £732 million.

“Although we’re not expecting a great year for the consumer, we think it might not be as bad as last year,” said Wolfson.