David Prosser: Next's man never misses an opportunity


Outlook: Another set of results from Next and another pitch from its youthful chief executive, Simon Wolfson, for a post in a David Cameron government. Asked yesterday whether he could think of anything good in Alistair Darling's Budget, he replied "nothing".

Mr Wolfson has made no secret of where his political allegiances lie and he is, of course, quite entitled to his views. But it is remarkable how every time Next updates the market on its progress, its chief executive explains that while the retailer is performing well now, he is very concerned about the months ahead.

Maybe it is that prudent caution that explains why Next always seems to cheat Mr Wolfson's predictions of doom. It has, after all, now issued five profit upgrades in its last financial year. On the other hand, has it not occurred to Mr Wolfson that even a small part of Next's resilience to recession might just be put down to the government policies about which he has been so disparaging?

There is no doubt, for example, that the VAT cut offered last year did provide the retail sector with a boost. Next will also have benefited from the fiscal stimulus that has been one reason why unemployment has not risen more quickly.

This time around, Mr Wolfson might be right in expressing his worries about the outlook for the high street – there are plenty of good reasons to be nervous about the next six months.

Ironically, however, Next now faces one additional danger: it could lose its chief executive to a ministerial post in the next government.

Mr Wolfson has done an excellent job at Next and he would be sorely missed by the retailer. it's just a shame he can't resist the political sniping.

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