Next gets boost from surging online sales

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Lord Wolfson, the chief executive of Next, hailed the growing popularity of wi-fi at home for driving another sharp jump in its online sales, which helped the fashion retailer post third-quarter results ahead of expectations.

But the fashion and homewares group's like-for-like sales deteriorated to be down by nearly 7 per cent, underlining the negative impact of the recent warm weather on winter fashion purchases and the wider squeeze on consumers.

Next's Directory business was the group's star performer, delivering a scorching 16.9 per cent sales growth in the quarter to 29 October, ahead of the first half's 15.1 per cent rise. In addition to the take-up of wi-fi in the home, Lord Wolfson cited the positive impact on sales of Next's next-day delivery policy, which has been advertised on TV.

He said: "I think online will continue to grow as a way of shopping. wi-fi is becoming more important than broadband because people can take their laptops with them [outside] or when they are watching TV or cooking. The fact that you can order until 9pm and still get next-day delivery means they can shop after they have put their kids to bed."

The strong performance of its online business and new stores helped Next deliver better than expected sales, up by 3.3 per cent.

Lord Wolfson said: "[Retail] was a little disappointing but Directory has more than made up for that."

Next's retail division suffered a 3.3 per cent fall in sales, which were down 6.7 per cent on a like-for-like basis. The group expects full-year profits between £550m and £585m.