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It’s been a stellar year for clothing retailer Next, but its share price still slumped on Thursday when it released its sales figures for the last six months. At Thursday’s close, its share price stood at 5820p, a fall of 5.4%, after it highlighted a slow start to Autumn sales thanks to unseasonable weather.
The results put the retailer in pretty good shape – profits before tax to the end of July had risen 2.7 per cent from the same period in the previous year to £319.6m. Total group sales had risen by 3.7 per cent to £2.06 bn, with a 12.6 percent jump in online revenue offsetting a 5.5 per cent slump in retail sales.
So, its interesting that share prices should have fallen, with many analysts believing that it was the tone of Chief Executive, Simon Wolfson, along with the lack of an upgrade to its guidance which has caused the dip.
Wolfson highlighted the fact that he expects this quarter to be the weakest yet in his statement, stating that the warm start to September has adversely affected the last couple of weeks. He also took a cautiously optimistic tone about Next’s prospects, saying that the guidance comes with one important caveat: “the company has not accounted for the possible positive effects of a deal or possible negative effects of a no-deal Brexit.’
Despite today’s dip, Next have had a superb year so far so should investors see this as a good opportunity to buy low?
Most analysts think so based on the firm’s recent figures and long-term plans. Many have pointed out that as trading figures in July led to a small upgrade in full year profit guidance, they were not expecting further upgrades before the peak festive season. And the poor start to the Autumn season, that Next themselves have flagged, has not actually affected full year guidance.
Brexit is an unknown factor, of course, but as Next has been the winner in the retail race so far in 2019 there is no reason to suggest that it couldn’t weather the storm.
However there have been doubters – when Next revealed its trading statement in July, some analysts raised concerns that the surplus of sale stock that Next didn’t manage to shift could affect the retailers bottom line, costing as much as an additional £10 million and leading to disappointment with the actual full year figures.
Ultimately though, share prices have rallied more than 50% altogether in 2019, and several analysts have upgraded the retailers price targets, including Liberum which has it at 6,500p. Retail success stories have been few and far between recently, but Next has a strong online strategy with the addition of brands such as Lipsy, Oasis and River Island, and despite Lord Wolfson’s cautious words, it has already posted a robust impact statement about Brexit on its website. The company also carried out a stress test in March, where it evaluated what would happen if like-for-like retail sales declined by 10% each year over a fifteen-year period and found that the retailer would still generate £12 billion of cash overall. Whilst there are some doubters around the longer term prospects for UK retail, some believe that Next could continue to offer a good long-term yield to investors, and todays dip could present an opportunity to snap up a bargain.
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