Total sales at Next grew 4.1% excluding VAT in the 13 weeks to May 1 but it said it remained “cautious” for the year ahead.

Total retail sales were ahead 2.8% for the quarter with Directory sales remaining strong, up 7.2% for the quarter. Like-for-like sales, excluding direct, were just down at -0.8%.

In a statement Next said these sales exclude VAT as this year VAT has reverted to its previous, higher level and VAT inclusive sales were around 1.5% higher than the reported results.

It said: “Product and operating costs remain well controlled throughout the group and our foreign exchange requirements are covered for the year ahead. We reconfirm that, in the event of full year Retail like for like sales being -2.5%, then we would expect group operating margin to increase by around 1%.

“Our internal profit before tax forecasts are towards the top end of the range of current City forecasts, most of which fall between £525m and £565m.”

Next added that it remained “very cautious” for the year ahead in anticipation of the action a new government will have to take to tackle the budget deficit which it believes will “restrain growth” in consumer spending.