Next pre-tax underlying profit jumped 9% to £622m over the year against a 3.1% sales jump, however, the new year has got off to a slow start.
Next chief executive Lord Wolfson said the first few weeks of the year have been “quiet and serve to reinforce a more cautious approach”.
For its full year to January 2013, retail sales were flat at £2.19bn while the Next Directory business, which includes online and catalogue, grew 9.5%.
Next reinforced that its retail and directory support each other, with more than 20% of Directory sales delivered to stores and more than 60% of returns coming back that way.
Wolfson said any sales growth in its current year will come from investment in profitable new space and online. He expects these avenues of growth to exceed underlying declines in the year ahead and is budgeting for total sales to rise between 1% and 4%.
Next expects to add at least 250,000 sq ft of trading space in the current year, although Wolfson said planning was still a problem and blasted some councils. He said: “Many local councils are enthusiastic and efficient, but a few remain an unhealthy mix of Luddite intransigence and incompetence. Going forward, in areas where councils traditionally have got away with just saying “no”, we will be more active in harnessing the law and the full weight of public opinion to campaign for growth.”
The Next boss said the consumer environment looks set to remain subdued in the year ahead. He said: “The inevitable deleveraging of public and private finances means that the nation must slowly work its way back to affording the lifestyle it was already enjoying before the financial crisis.”
“In this environment, we will continue to budget for our existing stores to take moderately less than the previous year.”
Sales are currently at the bottom of its target range but Wolfson expects this to improve.
Current year pre-tax profit is expected to fall between £615m to £655m for the year, which represents a movement of -1% to +7% year-on-year.
Over the year, the fashion and home retailer bought back 4.5% of shares.