Next's like-for-like retail sales fell 7 per cent between July 29 and December 24, with total group sales down 1.9 per cent.

The like-for-like figure - which only includes those stores not affected by new store openings - is at the bottom end of the range forecast by the company in September and November. Directory sales were up 1.1 per cent in the period.

The company said that full-year profits will meet expectations, but warned that the weakness of sterling is going to lead to upward pressure on prices and downward pressure on margins by the time of this year's autumn/winter season.

While the company said it expected the consumer environment to reman tough, it said it saw some positive signs as food, fuel and energy prices and mortgage bills start to fall.