Next has benefitted from a late Easter and warm weather with a better than expected first quarter.

Total retail sales were up 1.1 per cent in the 14 weeks to May 2 with like for likes down 2.3 per cent, well ahead of Next’s estimates of between -6 and -9 per cent.

Sales for its Directory business were up 1.6 per cent.

As a result of the stronger first quarter Next has added £15m to its internal profit forecasts. 

It warned that its second quarter would be weaker due to more challenging comparative figures. It said: “These improvements could yet be offset by the effects of pandemic flu, although at this stage it is hard to predict the impact on consumer behaviour.”  

Next expects like for like sales for retail to be down between 4 per cent and 7 per cent in its first half.

It added: “Generally, we are happy with the positioning and composition of our ranges. Stock levels are in line with our expectations and below last year’s levels.”