■ Brand sales up 1.4 per cent in the first quarter
■ £36m of share buybacks completed, on target for £200m this year
■ Maintained pre-tax profit guidance of £560m-£610m
On the face of it, a 1.4 per cent increase in total first-quarter sales at
And as analysts point out, the latest figures were measured against tough comparatives from a year earlier, when sales growth hit 5.2 per cent, boosted by the warm weather and the royal wedding. Weakening comparative figures in the second quarter mean Next is still well on track to deliver first-half sales growth at the top end of its 1-4 per cent guidance.
Alongside its continuing share buy-back programme, that should deliver healthy earnings growth this year - should brand sales growth hit the top end of the range over the full year, earnings will climb 13 per cent.
Despite climbing by more than a third in the past year, at 2,983p, Next's shares still trade on a forecast PE ratio of just 11. That's in line with sector peers which have, on the whole, proved far less adept at overcoming the weak consumer backdrop. Buy.
Last IC view: Buy, 2,864p, 23 Mar 2012