Next raises full year profit forecasts

Britain's second-largest clothing retailer Next Plc raised its full year profit forecasts after posting better-than-expected Christmas sales.

Next, which operates more than 500 shops in the UK and Ireland, said its pre-tax profits would remain between 490 and 500 million pounds for the year to January 31, up from analysts' projection of 472 million.

During 22-week period to 24 December, Next's underlying sales jumped 3.2 per cent, including internet trading. Its total retail sales jumped 4.6 per cent, while directory sales climbed 6.8 per cent.

Commenting on the results, Next's CEO Simon Wolfson said, "They are better than we were expecting and are a reflection of stable consumer environment and improved ranges on our part."

However, the fashion chain remained cautious regarding prospects for 2010. It warned that earnings could be flat in 2010 as taxes would likely rise to slash public sector deficit of 178 billion pounds.

Meanwhile, department store chain John Lewis posted record sales for Christmas season.