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Wednesday, May 19, 1999 Published at 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK

Business: The Company File

Next bucks retail gloom

Sales at the chain's shops were up by 25%

Clothing chain Next is celebrating buoyant sales of its spring and summer fashions.

Next chairman Sir Brian Pitman said: "In March we announced that the first seven weeks of the spring/summer 1999 season had shown a strong recovery from the difficulties in the first half of 1998.

[ image: Next has rethought its women's fashions]
Next has rethought its women's fashions
"I am pleased to report that this performance has continued."

Total sales through the Next group were up 19.5% in the first 15 weeks of the financial year compared with the same period in 1998.

The trading statement issued to shareholders at the group annual general meeting, helped lift shares in Next, which recently rejoined the ranks of the FTSE 100, up 28.5p to 797p.

The strongest sales growth was in the group's chain of shops where total sales were up 25.5%.

The rise was partly lifted by an 11.5% increase in store space.

The group's home shopping business, the Next Directory, reported sales up 5.5% on last year.

Next's buoyant figures came as Marks & Spencer reported its full year figures showing a massive slump in profits.

But despite continued poor sales in April, M&S said sales had shown signs of recovery in May.

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