Next has reported a 1.5% rise in full price sales over the festive season, beating its own expectations of a dismal Christmas.
The fashion and homewares retailer credited colder weather for driving the performance – perhaps giving hope that Christmas has not proved to be the damp squib for the wider sector that some commentators had feared.
Its shares surged by 10% when the FTSE 100 opened for trading while Associated British Foods, which owns Primark, and Marks & Spencer also rose sharply – by 3% in early deals.
Next said that while store sales fell 6.1% in the 54 days from 1 November to 24 December, online business was 13.6% up on the same period last year.
Next had given updated guidance in November that it was expecting full price sales to dip by 0.3%. That news spooked the market at the time with shares falling 9%.
Image: Next had expected festive sales to be down on Christmas 2016
It said the better-than-expected result meant it was now able to upgrade its annual profit guidance by £8m to a range of between £718m to £732m.
The company said where the figure would fall would depend on sales during January – the final month in its financial year.
But Next cautioned that trading remained tough though it expected cost headwinds, from the collapse in the value of the pound since the Brexit vote, to ease.
Image: Storm Caroline brought some disruption to high streets in early December
Its statement said: “Many of the challenges we faced last year look set to continue into the year ahead.
“Subdued consumer demand driven by a decline in real income, the increase in experiential spending at the expense of clothing, and inflation in our cost prices remain challenges for 2018.
“However, we believe that some of these headwinds will ease as we move through the year; we already know that cost price inflation will reduce to 2% in the first half and believe it will disappear in the second half.
“We are budgeting for full price sales next year to grow by between -2% and +4%.
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“The mid-point of +1% represents a modest improvement on this year’s anticipated growth of +0.3%.”