Outlook: Next promotion

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Outlook: Next promotion

THE SON also rises at Next. And how. Simon Wolfson is now, as they say, only a heartbeat away from the top job at the fashion retailer following his promotion yesterday to managing director of the Next brand. At least the company appears to be learning from its past mistakes. Simon's elevation to the board in 1997 was communicated to shareholders in a two-line Stock Exchange announcement devoid of all salient facts including the one that he also happened to be the son of the then-chairman, Lord Wolfson of Sunningdale.

Next's announcement yesterday was postively dripping with Hampelesque corporate correctness. Lord Wolfson has since moved on to Great Universal Stores and severed all links with Next so there is not even a hint of nepotism in Simon's latest promotion.

Nevertheless, the glowing tributes from the new chairman, Sir Brian Pitman, and the detailed biography of Wolfson junior only serve to emphasis what a meteoric rise he has enjoyed since beginning his career as a shop assistant in Next's Kensington High Street branch eight years ago.

Wolfson the younger comes from a great retailing tradition and, despite his tender years, there seems little doubt that he is being groomed to step into the chief executive's shoes when David Jones retires from Next in four years time. Next insists he has got where he is today on merit. That may be the case but to put any lingering doubts to rest a stint outside the company in another retail environment would help. And preferably not GUS.