UK High Street

High Street giant Next has reported a fall in retail sales in the first quarter, which the retailer attributed to an 'abnormally cold spring'.

However, the sales figures beat analyst's estimates after shoppers started flocking the showrooms to buy spring fashions, prompted by a warm end to April.

Next brand sales for the first fourteen weeks ended 4 May rose 2.2%, of which 1.5% came from the opening of profitable space. This compares with a 3.9 % growth in the prior quarter and analysts' estimate of 1.1% rise in the quarter. Retail sales for the period dipped 1.9%.

Brand sales were slightly below the midpoint of the guidance range, of 1-4%, given in March, said a company interim management statement.

'The overall number of +2.2% is the best guide for future performance and we remain cautious about the consumer environment," Next said.

"We anticipate that the continuing decline in real earnings will depress discretionary spending for at least the next eighteen months, if not longer".

Separately, a survey from BRC showed that the UK April retail sales were down 2.2% on a like-for-like basis from the year-ago period, when sales fell 3.3%. Like-for-like sales exclude the impact of new store openings.

Total sales were down 0.6% on year, compared to a 1% decline in the year-ago month.

Looking forward, Next said the company is confident of hitting a group profit range of £615m to £665m. The firm expects that its share buyback plans will entail a cost of £250m.