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Last orders get later at Next

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From October Next customers will be able to order online as late as 9pm for delivery the following day. The new later delivery cut off was revealed today in the company’s half-year results. Next said this represented a steady advance towards later orders, which has moved from 5pm two years ago to 7pm today.

It said this was among a host of improvements being made to the website and customer service, and added that its Next Directory – for which 70% of orders are made online – saw sales rise by 9.5% over the six months. Growth came largely from an 11.2% increase in active customers to 2.6m, as of July 2010.

Part of the reason for the growth has been the new ability of customers to pay online by credit or debit card without the need to quality for a Next credit account. Overall, Directory profit was up by 21.5%, compared to last year.

The company also said online was at the heart of its international sales. Chief executive Simon Wolfson said: “We continue to move the focus of our international ambitions towards the internet and are now trading successfully online in 37 countries. Overseas sales on the internet (excluding Eire) have grown 250% but were still small at just £2.3m. Operating margins are healthy and are currently in the region of 20%.”

Across the group, Next brand sales rose by 11% to £1.48bn in the six months to July, from £1.42bn at the same time last year, taking the group’s total revenue up by 13% to £1.59bn, from £1.51bn at the same time last year.

Pre-tax profits rose by 15% to £213.3m, from £185.5m at the same time last year.

Lord Wolfson said: “Next has delivered strong results in the first half and we expect to deliver earnings-per-share growth for the full year of between 13% and 18%. Looking forward we believe the consumer environment may remain sluggish for some time. However, Next has proven avenues for expansion that we can exploit to increase total sales.”

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