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Stores spur growth at Next and hold it back at Thorntons

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Profitable new stores helped Next to report sales growth both online and offline. But store closures hit sales at Thorntons , as the two unveiled trading figures today.

The multichannel fashion retailer today unveiled a 10.8% rise in Next brand sales in the first 13 weeks of its financial year. Some 2.2% of that growth, it said, came from profitable new space. Overall, retail – or store – sales rose by 8.8% in the period, running up to April 30, while Next Directory sales – primarily made online – were up by 13.7%.

The company said it now expected full-year sales to be higher than previously expected. It predicted a rise of between 5.5% and 9.5% in the full year, up from previous guidance of between 4% and 8%. Profits, it said, would grow at between 8% and 14% to between £750m and £790m.

“This new guidance might look conservative in the light of the first quarter’s performance,” said the Next statement. “However, we always expected the first quarter to show above average sales growth as the comparative period last year suffered from a particularly cold Spring and Easter Holiday period.”

Meanwhile, chocolate manufacturer and multichannel retailer Thorntons reported a decline in its sales for the third quarter of its financial year. The company said slower sales in February and March and the effect of planned store closures had contributed.

It also said that online sales in the 15 weeks to April 26, made through its consumer direct channel, had increased by 5.6%, but own-store sales fell by 8.8% following the closure of 38 stores compared to the same time last year.

All channels, however, saw growth over Easter, said chief executive Jonathan Hart.

Jonathan Hart, Thorntons’ chief executive, said: “Customers responded positively to our Easter innovations and we anticipate further good growth in our Easter market share.

“Despite this third quarter result we are satisfied with the overall performance of the business for the year to date and we look forward to our UK Commercial channel returning to growth in our short final quarter,” said Hart. “The board remains confident that Thorntons will perform in line with market expectations for the full year and we continue to be confident that our transformation is on track and our strategy is appropriate and working.”

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