The coldest March for 50 years kept many shoppers at home, but strong online sales boosted Next’s sales by nearly 9%, leaving overall group sales up 2.2% despite poor performing shops. Shop sales slumped by 1.9% in the 14 weeks to 4 May.
The company said: “It is apparent that the poor March figures were down to an abnormally cold spring. Equally, the good weeks since mid-April have been boosted by pent-up demand from the previous month. We believe that neither period is indicative of any significant change in the underlying economy.”
Next’s online business is going from strength to strength. At the full year results in January, the company revealed online sales jumped 9.5% to £1.19bn, compared with in-store sales of £2.19bn. In a sign of how profitable the online business is for Next, pretax profits for online were £302.1m, compared with £331m in stores.
Despite the increase in online sales, the company, which has more than 500 stores, remains cautious about the fragile UK economy. It said: “We anticipate that the continuing decline in real earnings will depress discretionary spending for at least the next 18 months, if not longer.”
This case illustrates the value of a having a strong e-commerce element to businesses of all sizes. Adding e-commerce to sell your products online needn’t be an expensive option and could boost your business long term.
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