Like-for-like sales at Next fell 6 per cent in the 26 weeks to July 26, with total sales across the group down 1.8 per cent.

The company experienced a stronger second quarter when retail like-for-likes improved, dropping just 2.4 per cent compared with 9.4 per cent negative like-for-like sales in the first quarter of its financial year.

Next said that the comparisons were against very unsettled weather last year and that the total comparison (of -6 per cent) for the whole of the first half was more reflective of trading patterns.

Next’s Directory business continued to notch up strong sales growth, which was ahead 2 per cent for the period and up 5.6 per cent in the second quarter.

In a statement, Next said: “We remain very cautious about the outlook for the second half and can see no reason for any improvement in consumer spending – indeed, the economic risks appear to us to be on the downside. We believe that continued year-on-year increases in food, fuel and mortgage costs will weigh heavily on our customers.”

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