Next ups profit forecast on strong Christmas sales

LONDON Fri Jan 3, 2014 2:15am EST

LONDON Jan 3 (Reuters) - Next, Britain's second largest clothing retailer, raised its annual profit forecast after fourth quarter sales came in significantly ahead of its previous guidance.

The firm said on Friday it expected a year to end-January 2014 pretax profit of 684-700 million pounds ($1.12-$1.15 billion).

Its previous forecast was 650-680 million pounds.

Next, which unlike rivals has a long standing policy of never going on sale before Christmas, said total sales rose 11.9 percent in the Nov. 1 to Dec. 24 period and are now up 5.0 percent year to date.

That compares with a rise of 4.3 percent in its third quarter and previous company guidance for full year sales growth of 2.0-3.75 percent.

Next was again reliant on a strong performance from its Directory internet and catalogue business, where sales soared 21 percent.

Sales at its over 500 stores in Britain and Ireland and about 200 stores in over 30 countries overseas increased 7.7 percent.

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