Next Looks Good As Annual Profit Rises 11%
High street fashion retailer Next has seen its annual underlying pre-tax profit rise by 11.8%, to almost £700m.
The clothing retailer, which is Britain's second biggest in the sector, said growth in its online and catalogue business was behind the strong figures.
The firm has more than 500 stores in the UK and Ireland, along with around 200 outlets in some 30 other countries.
Next said total pre-tax profit to the end of January was £695.2m.
The figure was in keeping with analysts' expectations and compared to £621.6m in the previous financial year.
Its strongest growth was in the combined catalogue and online 'Directory' division, which grew revenue by 12.4% to £1.341bn.
The Directory business generated 50% of operating profit, meaning the division had an operating margin of 26.7%.
This compares very favourably to the core retail segment that generated 48% of operating profit at a margin of only 15.6%.
Total revenue and sales were up 5.4% to £3.74bn and the company increased its dividend by 23% to 129p.
It forecast sales growth this financial year of between 4% to 8%, with a pre-tax profit estimate of around £750m.
"In the year ahead we expect the fourth quarter to provide tough comparatives and it will be hard to beat," the company said.
"Accordingly, we are budgeting very cautiously for the final quarter."
Shares in Next have risen around 61% over the last 12 months.
The firm added: "However, conditions are likely to remain far from buoyant and there are real risks to the sustainability of the current recovery."
Sky News City Editor Mark Kleinman recently revealed that high street fashion rival Marks and Spencer had appointed two brothers responsible for streamlining Next's sourcing supply chain.