Next grabs bigger slice of UK high street fashion

Fashion stalwart Next has delivered a double blow to high street rivals by gaining market share and promising to push price points lower.

The group boosted sales by 15 per cent in the six months to July to£1.3 billion, while average selling prices were cut by 6 per cent. Pre-tax profit surged 30 per cent to£162.7 million.

Chief executive Simon Wolfson said price points would fall further in the second half, thanks to improvements in sourcing, although not by as much as 6 per cent. He emphasised that Next's priority is to offer quality, not low prices.

Product director Christos Angelides added: 'We do a£14.99 jean, we can't get a lower price jean. It's about quality, not price.'

Wolfson would not be drawn on who Next had seized market share from, but said: 'Our sales grew more than the market average of about 2 per cent, so we must have taken it from someone.'

He described the competitive environment in the first half as 'benign' and warned that in the next six months 'the competitive environment will get tougher'.

Current trading is solid, with like-for-like sales up 2.1 per cent. Store expansion continues apace, with 480,000 sq ft (44,590 sq m) to be added by the end of this year.

Investec noted: 'Next's ability to trade well in difficult conditions, plus organic space growth from new stores will look increasingly attractive compared to its peers, as interest rate rises dampen the UK consumer market.'