The positive figures announced by high street bellwether Next are likely to be perceived as a sign that the UK retail environment is recovering, however Next has made wise operational decisions which have aided growth and enabled the retailer to capitalise on changing shopping habits. Next’s robust performance should not be attributed to a general upturn in consumer spending and as such other retailers that are not making strides in improving their customer proposition, are unlikely to see the same results.

Next is better protected as sales continue to transition online, given the dominance of its digital channels, and is well prepared with a more agile retail estate comprising of shorter leases and profitable stores.

Stores remain a declining part of the business but Next is utilising physical locations to its advantage, for example by adding in concessions to drive revenue and give shoppers other reasons to visit Next, and also as a back-up stock pool for online orders. In addition Next is considering using stores as collection points for ‘third-party non-competing businesses’ demonstrating a willingness to extend its purpose, in order to provide convenience for shoppers and adapt to changing consumer needs.

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