Warm weather helps to boost beleaguered Next

The clothing retailer Next saw sales fall sharply through the first months of this year but said that the improving weather had begun attracting people back to the high street, providing the first chinks of light amid the gloom afflicting the UK high street.

In the last 11 days, as the weather has warmed, the company said that sales had "picked up markedly" and reiterated its confidence that it will be able to hit the City's full-year profit expectations. In a sign of the desperation for any early indications of a recovery from the effects wrought by the credit crunch and price inflation on retailers, the news was enough to send company's shares up by 5.9 per cent, despite a like-for-like sales drop for the three months through the end of April of 8.9 per cent. Combined sales from its high-street shops and its Next Directory catalogue business fell by 3.9 per cent, in line with the predictions given by the company in March that sales would fall between 4 and 7 per cent.

The sun may have coaxed shoppers out of the house, but Simon Wolfson, Next's chief executive, was nonetheless pessimistic about the prospects for a quick recovery. He said: "What we can say with some certainty is that it is fairly unlikely to get better this year." He cited the sharp increase in mortgage rates, fuel and food, in that order, as the main reasons why people would continue to be wary of spending on discretionary items such as the chain's higher-end fashion.

Next's warning follows profits warnings from several other retailers this year, including DSG International, Moss Bros; and Land of Leather due to what economists have described as a "forced redistribution of spending". The cost of petrol at the forecourt has skyrocketed due to the record price of oil, while basics such as the cost of a loaf of bread have been pushed up by the higher cost of the commodities used to produce them.

Nick Bubb, retail analyst at Pali International, said: "The fall in business is about more than just the weather: the credit crunch is biting at consumer spending, the middle-market is getting badly squeezed and the Next customer is right in the firing line of higher fuel, food and mortgage costs."

Despite fears of a rapid slowdown of the economy the Bank of England provided no respite yesterday, choosing to keep interest rates steady at 5 per cent on concerns that another cut could encourage further inflation. Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: "There's no doubt conditions are tough for retailers at the moment. Our latest Retail Sales Monitor showed the first year-on-year fall in like-for-like sales for two years. Consumer confidence levels are at a 15-year low and sharp rises in utility and fuel bills are putting pressure on household budgets."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Financial Advisers and Paraplanners

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This extremely successful and well-established...

Guru Careers: FX Trader / Risk Manager

Competitive with monthly bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced FX...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with excess, cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings