Next sales still positive but Q3 sees slowing growth
Next issued a fairly brief trading statement on Wednesday and unlike many such releases in recent periods from UK fashion companies, it didn't contain a profit warning. Phew.
In fact the company said that full-price sales for the third quarter rose 2% year-on-year “in line with our expectations.”
But that figure concealed very different performances across its main operating areas and also showed that the latest quarter has seen a slowdown.
In the first nine months to October 27, full-price product sales including interest income (from the company selling many of its goods on credit terms) rose 3.7%, so that 2% figure shows sales not keeping up the earlier pace. With that interest income stripped out, the nine-month figure was 3.1% and the Q3 figure only 1.3%.
And looking even closer, it seems that both the company's retail stores and its online operation have slowed in recent months. In the case of online, it still managed to turn in a healthy 12.7% increase in Q3, compared to 14.8% in the nine months.
But the company’s physical stores declined from a 6.3% fall in the nine months to an 8% drop in Q3.
As mentioned, these figures had been expected by the company and it maintained its full-year sales and profit guidance as set out five weeks ago in its half-year Results. That means it still expects full-price sales to rise 3% and group pre-tax profit to edge up by 0.1%.
What does it all say about the UK fashion retail market? Nothing that we didn't know already. It seems that the transition from summer to autumn has proved difficult again, after last year’s mild October also hurt sales across the UK. It is to be hoped that the much colder weather that has now set in will boost sales of the autumn ranges that Next and its retail peers are trying to sell.
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