Next has raised its profits forecast for its second half after strong growth in its Directory business in the first half.

Total sales for the the six months to July 28 were up 4.5% excluding VAT against last year. Retail sales were 0.2% up on last year, with sales from new space offsetting lower sales from like-for-like stores. 

Sales in its online and catalogue Directory business increased 13.3% compared with guidance of a 9% to 12% rise, which the retailer declared “another strong all-round performance”. 

Total stock for Next’s end-of-season Sale was up 8.7% with cash recovery in line with the company’s forecast. Net sales from new space rose 2.5%.

Next said in its full-year guidance: “We are modestly increasing and narrowing our sales and profit guidance ranges for the full year. We now anticipate brand sales growth of 2% to 4.5% and group profit before tax of £575m to £620m (previously £560m to £610m). 

“The profit range and growth percentages exclude exceptional profits.”

Growth in profit before tax was forecast to grow 0.8% to £575m if the company hits the low end of expectations and will grow 8.7% to £620m at the upper end of expectations.

Next intends to buy back around £200m of shares this year and has already spent £112m buying back 3.9 million shares.

The company will release its interim results for the 26 weeks to July 28 on September 13.