Next has increased its profit guidance for the full year after sales and earnings bettered expectations in its first half.

The fashion giant posted a pre-tax profit of £311.1m in the six months to the end of July.

Full-price sales advanced 4.5% year-on-year during the period, outstripping both the 1% guidance Next gave in January and its 2.2% prediction in May.

As a result, the high street bellwether said it was raising its full-year pre-tax profit forecast by £10m to £727m.

Next said total group sales climbed 3.8% to £1.98bn during the period, but revenues delivered through its bricks-and-mortar estate continued to move in the wrong direction.

Store sales fell 6.9% to £925.1m across the six-month period. In contrast, online sales surged 16.8% to £892.3m.

Next said it would continue its drive to “enhance the way our stores work with our online business to create a more unified service platform” for customers.

It is piloting a same-day click-and-collect service for stock already available in a customer’s local store, and is testing the sending of products that over-perform online into stores that “have a high probability of selling that item”.

The retailer said it was also “investigating” whether its shops could double up as delivery points for “third-party non-competing” businesses.

Next expects to launch a “meaningful trial” of that particular initiative within the next six months.

The business said the moves were designed to help Next adapt to the “profound and rapid structural change in our sector”.

Next boss Lord Wolfson said: “We are often asked: ‘What will the high street look like in 10 years’ time?’ The only honest answer to this question is that we do not know; we can see the general direction of travel but can predict neither the speed nor endpoint for the changes that lie ahead.

“Our approach is to build as much flexibility into our operations and cost base as is possible to minimise the negative effects of falling retail sales and maximise opportunities for growth online.

“This means a constant process of reinvention and experimentation within our business, while preserving the integrity of our brand, the calibre of our people, quality of the operations and the profitability of the group.

“The task remains extremely challenging, but with more than half of our sales now coming from our online and finance businesses, it feels like we are moving in the right direction.”