- First quarter sales at clothing retailer, Next Plc, were down 1.5% on two years ago resulting largely from the closure of its retail stores during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The growth in online sales of NEXT Homeware, third-party brands (through LABEL) and NEXT Childrenswear, along with increasing sales overseas, served to make up for the sales we lost in our stores, the group said.

The last three weeks sales have been 'exceptionally strong' and, versus two years ago, total full price sales were up 19%. In that period, full price sales in like-for-like retail stores were up 2% and online sales were up 52%.

The company expects the post-lockdown surge will be short lived and that sales will settle back down to guidance levels within the coming weeks.

It is therefore maintaining its full price sales guidance for the rest of the year to be up 3% versus 2019. It has also maintained the assumption that retail will be down 20% and online will be up 24%.

Despite retail stores being closed for 10 weeks of 2021, full price sales to date have been £75 million better than expected, the group said. As a result, it has increased its central guidance for pre-tax profit by £20 million to £720 million for the year.

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