By Candice Krieger
May 6, 2009
The high street has had little to cheer about of late. And so, it came as something of a surprise today when Simon Wolfson, the chief executive of Next, revealed impressive trading figures - better than expected by his own admission.
Sales for the 14 week period to 2 May 2009 were only down 2.3 per cent, ahead of the Group's -6 per to -9 per cent estimate. Yet the company is not getting carried away and said the figures need to be treated with caution, as they are flattered by a number of factors:
• A later Easter which is good for retail generally
• Much warmer weather than last year which benefits sales of summer clothing
• Fewer people travelling overseas during the Easter holiday as a result of the
weakness of sterling.
As a result of the better than expected sales to date, the company has added £15m to its internal profit forecasts but said: "These improvements could yet be offset by the effects of pandemic flu, although at this stage it is hard to predict the impact on consumer behaviour." An introductory range of customised face masks might help.