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Next profit up 2.7% on strong online growth

Next profit up 2.7% on strong online growth
FILE PHOTO: Shoppers pass a branch of Next retail in London, Britain, September 15, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo -
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Toby Melville(Reuters)
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LONDON (Reuters) – British clothing chain Next reported a 2.7% rise in first-half profit as robust online sales more than offset a decline at its stores.

The firm, which trades from about 500 stores in the UK and Ireland, about 200 stores in 40 countries overseas and its Directory online business, also said on Thursday it was maintaining guidance for its full 2019-20 year.

Next made a pretax profit of 319.6 million pounds in the 26 weeks to end-July, up from 311.1 million pounds in the same period last year, on group sales up 3.7% to 2.06 billion pounds.

Full-price sales at Next’s stores fell 3.9% in the period, but they were up 11.9% online, starkly illustrating the clothing industry’s structural shift from physical stores to online.

Next kept the central guidance for 2019-20 that it raised in July – full-price sales up 3.6% and pretax profit of 725 million pounds, a 0.3% rise on the 2018-19 outcome, with earnings per share growth of 5.2%, reflecting share buybacks.

Shares in Next, up 55% so far this year, closed Wednesday at 6,170 pence, valuing the business at 8.24 billion pounds.

(Reporting by James Davey, Editing by Paul Sandle)

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