Next boss Simon Wolfson is making a habit of beating expectations. So good has recent performance been that Next brought forward its trading update and upped internal profit forecasts by £30m.

Next attributed between 2 and 3 per cent of its retail sales rise in the first half to good weather, which is likely to have helped other clothing groups too. But there was more to Next’s performance than the sun being out. The retailer said it had been “much happier with the design and fashion content of our ranges”. It managed stock well and resisted any temptation to break its established Sale cycle.

Wolfson was typically cautious on prospects, citing everything from swine flu to rising unemployment as clouds on the horizon. He can’t control the weather or the economy, but Wolfson is providing a masterclass in expectation management and attention to retail detail.

Give it a rest, Mike

Mike Ashley’s ongoing spat with Sir David Jones is a timely reminder to beware of Greeks bearing gifts.

Jones’s Teflon reputation has undoubtedly been tarnished by the loan row, but the noise Ashley is making about the speck in Jones’s eye is diverting
attention from the plank in his own.

Sports Direct’s history as a public company has been miserable. Its value has plummeted and so have its profits. It remains out of kilter on corporate governance. Its push into China is at a standstill. It paid no final dividend. Presented at IPO as the Manchester United of retail, in reality it has performed more like Ashley’s other high-profile venture, Newcastle United.

There were signs in last week’s results that Sports Direct’s management is getting a grip and performance will improve. If so, great. But Ashley and his sidekicks need to focus on their own business rather than amateur dramatics with JJB Sport.

Follow George on Twitter at twitter.com/GeorgeMacD