High street chain Next blamed unseasonably warm weather for a “disappointing” performance in the run-up to Christmas as it posted a fall in store sales and sharp slowdown in its Directory business.
The retailer said full-price sales fell 0.5% across its stores in the 60 days to December 24, while sales across its Next Directory online and catalogue arm lifted 2%.
Next said its trading woes were compounded by poor stock availability from October and tougher online competition.
Its worse-than-expected festive performance means the group expects full-year profits to come in towards the bottom end of its forecast, at £817m, although this would still be a 4.4% hike on the previous year.
Next, which holds off from discounting until St Stephen’s Day, said that, while the warm weather was the main reason for its disappointing trading, “we would not want to allow difficult trading conditions to mask any mistakes and challenges faced by the business''.
It added: “Specifically, we believe that Next Directory’s disappointing sales were compounded by poor stock availability from October onwards.
“In addition, the online competitive environment is getting tougher as industry-wide service propositions catch up with the Next Directory.”
The overall performance for full-price brand sales across stores and Directory were 0.4% higher for the 60 days to Christmas Eve – a sharp slowdown on the 3.3% hike seen in its half-year to July.
This has left sales for the year to date up 3.7%, running below previous guidance, although the group said its move not to discount ahead of Christmas meant its full-year profit range was maintained at between £810m and £845m.