The U.K.’s second-biggest apparel retailer, with 541 retail stores in the U.K. and Ireland, experienced its strongest sales growth of recent years, according to financial results for the half-year ended July 2014. With total sales ahead of last year by 10.3%, Next is moving forward with a roadmap to improve and expand product ranges and grow in and outside the U.K.
While the company’s core range remains its bread and butter, during a press conference on Sept. 11, Next CEO Simon Wolfson said it is important for the company to try new things, even when that means pricing itself out of its normal range. As Next moves to expand its price architecture to include premium product prices, it also secured new supply sources and changed its approach to ordering seasonal stock.
Next’s recent changes reflect a greater flexibility in business processes, so that the retailer can better meet market demands. It is developing new practices and relationships with quick response suppliers that will afford the retailer an improved ability to react to trends. With quick response suppliers, Next can delay purchasing decisions without chancing late deliveries or lower product quality, according to the financial report.
Additionally, the fashion retailer is moving from a two-season buying cycle to a four-season cycle. Next changed its buying process to ensure that its ranges offer more “weather-appropriate four-season cycle” selections during the spring and fall and more new items at the start of summer and winter, it stated in the half-year financial results.
Next’s online business, Directory, contributed to the retailer’s growth in the U.K. and overseas this year. Directory’s sales grew by 11.5% in the U.K. The retailer began offering free next-day-to-store delivery service and season-specific catalogs within the past year, seeking to make Directory more responsive to trends. The company also began trading online in 11 new territories, including China, in 2014, now selling in 71 countries total. Around 85 percent of its international sales come from its website, and third-party home-shopping operators make up the remaining sales.