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'New looks without evidence is a key to do fashion biz' - Next Chief
Apr '09
Next Plc releases the full rear results Jan 2009.

John Barton, Chairman Next Plc's statement on 2008 results: As anticipated, the year to January 2009 was a challenging year for Next. Revenue fell by 1.7% to £3,272 million and earnings per share, our primary financial measure, fell by 7.5% to 156p. However, we delivered profit before tax of £429m and reduced net debt by £111m to £629m.

The Board is pleased to recommend a final dividend of 37p making 55p for the year, the same as last year, which is covered 2.8 times by earnings.

Trading conditions in the year ahead will continue to be tough. The current economic climate in the UK is unstable and this brings short term volatility in our sales which, in turn, makes forecasting difficult. In addition, the weakness of Sterling against the US Dollar and the Euro, our main purchasing currencies, has brought further challenges to our buying teams. Their response has been excellent, working hard with our suppliers to protect our customers from unaffordable price increases and our own margins, as far as possible.

Next has a number of assets and opportunities which will enable us to trade through the year as successfully as possible:

• An experienced and stable management team who are responding extremely well to their current challenges.
• A powerful and efficient operating model.
• A strong financial position with modest debt and excellent cash flows.
• A weakening property market which is already providing us with interesting opportunities for profitable new Retail stores.
• The Next Directory, and its strong internet presence, which gives us the base to extend our product offering.

Our strategy remains as it was last year; to concentrate on the design, quality and value of our product, together with excellent customer service and delivery. We believe this will serve us well through the current recessionary period and leave us well placed when the recovery begins.

As we go through difficult trading periods we depend heavily on our management team, all of our staff and, in particular this year, the support of our suppliers. I would like to thank them all for the contribution they have made and their continuing support.

Simon Wolfson, Chief Executive Review: Next has emerged from a difficult year in good financial health, with solid net margins, a robust balance sheet, strong positive cash flow and secure financing. During the year we focused on managing our costs and continued to invest in the Next Brand through improved product ranges, stores and marketing. Whilst we do not underestimate the difficulties presented by the year ahead, we believe we are well prepared to meet the challenges of the continued economic downturn.

Anticipating a difficult year we set ourselves four key objectives; set realistic sales budgets, control stock, control costs and continue to invest in the Brand. During the year:

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