The trading climate’s harshness was highlighted by the sigh of relief and share-price rise that greeted Next’s 8.9 per-cent like-for-like first-quarter sales fall.

Next boss Simon Wolfson was cautious, but expected second-quarter sales to “improve significantly” and the warm weather was felt immediately.

Seymour Pierce switched from hold to buy, arguing that the retailer was oversold. The broker said Next is the leading internet retailer, ahead of Asos, and Directory has been growing at 22 per cent a year. “The company has a good track record of managing margins and costs and [has] a relatively ungeared balance sheet,” said the broker.