A feature on like-for-like sales that I wrote a few weeks ago caused more controversy than was intended; and one retailer has quickly responded by issuing multiple sales measures for comparative purposes.

A feature on like-for-like sales that I wrote a few weeks ago caused more controversy than was intended; and one retailer has quickly responded by issuing multiple sales measures for comparative purposes.

The piece was written to highlight how unsatisfactory a measure store-based like-for-likes are in a multichannel world. A follow-up by the Sunday Times focused on the fact that other retailers didn’t realise that Marks & Spencer includes online sales in its like-for-likes, and were not happy to have their sales compared when their own like-for-likes are for store sales only.

Excluding pure online sales from the measure is one thing, but most major UK retailers are moving on from running multiple channels, to offer true multichannel services. Once this happens, I argued, then how can you decide whether a particular sale, which has involved two or more channels, should be credited as a store sale or not.

This morning Next and Marks & Spencer both have results out. Next only uses store sales for its like-for-like figures, while, as I pointed out, M&S does not.

Next has responded in today’s interim management statement with an explanation of how it calculates its like-for-likes, and a promise to release a like-for-like figure including its Direct business in addition to its other reporting measures from now on.

Next points out that including direct sales improves its latest like-for-like figure by 2.2 percentage points, giving it a like-for-like measure up on last year. It also adds that there is no right answer as to what should be included in a like-for-like measure, but it prefers to use only store sales.

The statement says of internet sales: ‘Our preference is to continue not to include them, as we believe trends in the performance of same-stores (unaffected by new openings) are useful in analysing underlying retail performance and profitability. Going forward we will give the figure inclusive of direct sales as a footnote for comparative purpose.’

The retailer is right that there is no right answer, but by providing both measures it is hopefully starting a trend for open dialogue on the subject that others will follow.