British Retailer Next Raises Profit Outlook Again

British clothing retailer Next on Wednesday raised its full-year profit outlook for the fourth time in six months as it reported a 5.9 percent rise in first-half profit on a two-year basis, benefiting from strong trading since COVID-19 restrictions ended.

Next, which trades from about 500 stores as well as online, made a pretax profit of £347 million ($474 million) in the six months to July, on full-price sales up 8.8 percent versus 2019 — before the COVID-19 pandemic started to disrupt trading.

The group said full-price sales in the last eight weeks increased 20 percent versus 2019, materially exceeding its expectations.

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It raised its full-price sales guidance for the rest of the 2021-22 year to up 10 percent, versus up 6 percent previously, and its forecast for pretax profit to £800 million, £36 million ahead of its previous guidance.

Next has shown great resilience during the pandemic, benefiting from its long-established and well invested online operations.

Rivals with weaker or no online business, notably Primark, saw large falls in sales. Others, such as Topshop-owner Arcadia, and Debenhams have gone bust.

Shares in Next, up 37 percent over the last year, closed Tuesday at 8,080 pence, valuing the business at £10.9 billion.

By James Davey, editors: Paul Sandle and Kate Holton.

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The British high-street retailer has taken a 33 percent stake in the label and will also provide e-commerce infrastructure to support its operations. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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