Next says consumer slowdown will be modest

Consumer in Britain is likely to remain constrained for the foreseeable future, but any slowdown in demand is likely to be modest, the chief executive of fashion retailer Next told reporters.

Simon Wolfson also said in a telephone interview that the group was stepping up spending on standalone homewares stores, where new shops are beating sales targets by about 20 percent.

“Sales are going to be difficult for the foreseeable future,” he said, after Next reported a 1.5 percent drop in first-half underlying retail sales.

“But we're talking about a modest slowdown rather than an Armageddon scenario,” he said, adding there would “definitely not” be a repeat of the plunge in consumer demand that characterised the lowpoint of the latest recession in late 2008.

Wolfson said Next would invest an extra £10-20m ($16-32m) on expanding its standalone homewares stores compared with original expectations at the start of the year.

“We're beating our own sales targets by about 20 percent,” he said of new homewares stores.

The group planned to have around 40 standalone homewares stores over the next year, up from about 30 now, he added.

The increase in capital spending would not affect Next's programme on buying back shares, Wolfson said.

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