Next sees sales rise by 4.5%

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The Independent Online

Next showed rivals a clean pair of heels yesterday with a sales update that sent the shares soaring and had chief executive Simon Wolfson insisting that figures suggesting the nation is back in recession are plain wrong.

Lord Wolfson, a Conservative supporter who has been a strong backer of the Government's austerity drive, was able to defy talk that traditional retailers are in crisis. Sales in the half-year to the end of July were up 4.5 per cent, a rise few rivals can beat.

That left the shares the biggest riser in the FTSE 100, up 208p to 3,427p. But Lord Wolfson was sanguine about his own figures, noting that most of the sales growth comes from home shopping at Next's Directory business rather than in-store.

But he had words of comfort for the Chancellor, George Osborne.

"I don't for one second believe those numbers," he said. "It is not possible for an economy to fall by 0.7 per cent while employment figures rise. My sense is that the economy is flatlining."