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E-commerce helps Next exceed expectations

03 November 2011 - 09:05 by Graham Miller

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Retail chain Next has had as tough a time as any company with a high street presence over the last three months, but thanks to online shopping it has been able to outdo market predictions and increase its sales by 3.3 per cent during this period.

Next head, Simon Wolfson, explained that the economic pressures would continue to put the squeeze on consumer spending until the middle of 2012, at which point the impact of inflation will be less significant.

He also said that last year's poor weather conditions during the Christmas shopping season would allow Next to improve its sales figures in 2011.

It was the Next Directory service, which allows customers to carry out safe shopping online from the comfort of their homes, which allowed the retailer to make such good progress over the last quarter.

Sales via Next Directory were up by 16.9 per cent, according to Reuters, offsetting the eight per cent dip experienced by the established Next outlets on the high streets of the UK and Ireland.

By allowing online customers to order clothes and accessories for next day delivery, Mr Wolfson believes that Next was able to combine the convenience of e-commerce with the instantaneous nature of high street shopping.

Not all of the Next Directory orders are made online, but since only 20 per cent are placed by other means, it is clear that e-commerce is making a real contribution to the success of the company.

Next's online sales figures are in keeping with overall growth across the UK's e-commerce industry, which IMRG predicts to have seen a sales increase of 15 per cent in September, when compared with the same period in 2010. Strong growth in the run-up to Christmas will help consolidate the importance of the web.