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Next profits gloom after festive slump

FASHION chain Next has cut its annual profit forecast and predicted falling earnings over the next year.

The warning follows a poor Christmas high street performance which saw sales slump 9.2 per cent.

However, this was offset by a 15.2 per cent surge in online sales over the same trading period and a 1.5 per cent rise in full-price sales between October 28 and December 29.

The group downgraded its profit forecast to £723million for the year ahead, from the £727million previously expected, and said the next financial year will remain under pressure.

It blamed the gloomier outlook on higher sales of seasonal products such as personalised gifts and beauty products which have a lower profit margin than its clothing ranges. The group said it also faced higher operational costs on online sales.

Chief executive Lord Wolfson said November was hit hard by unusually mild weather, but that spending bounced back in December.

The pro-Brexit peer played down fears over the impact of economic uncertainty on consumers.

‘People are maybe a little bit more cautious, given the uncertainties around Brexit. But I think that’s as strong as you can put it,’ he said.

■ SHOP prices rose at their fastest since 2013 last month, despite Christmas discounts. Overall inflation accelerated to 0.3 per cent compared with a year ago, said the BRC-Nielsen Shop Price Index, which blamed the pound’s post-Brexit vote fall.

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