In a period where promotions were a plenty, whether for Black Friday or early offers, Next did not discount any stock until its end of season sale. And yet sales at Britain’s second biggest clothing retailer were up just 0.4% in the 2 months leading to Christmas.
The high street giant’s “disappointing” festive trading results have been put down to “unusually warm weather in November and December” which was illustrated in a graph provided by Next. The temperature was up by 2 - 4°c in the UK compared to the same period in the previous year.
Next trades from over 500 stores in Britain and Ireland, around 200 mainly franchised stores overseas and its Directory catalogue and internet division.
In a statement, the retailer said that warm weather was the main reason for a difficult fourth quarter but it did not “want to allow difficult trading conditions to mask any mistakes and challenges faced by the business.” Next’s Directory sales, which were up by 2% and also marked as “disappointing” were compounded by “poor stock availability from October onwards. In addition, the online competitive environment is getting tougher as industry-wide service propositions catch up with the Next Directory.”
Because Next is a strong contender in the sector and is the first to report on Christmas trading, its results portend badly for rivals such as Marks and Spencer, which is due to update the market on Thursday.
The clothing industry has been widely affected by unseasonable weather in the colder seasons. Bottom lines across major clothing retailers have taken a hit as big-ticket winter items such as coats and boots fail to stay in demand. This is driving European clothing retailers to buy goods more often and closer to home, blurring lines between seasonal collections sourced months ahead.