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Retailer Next prioritises out-of-town outlets for re-opening

Retail giant Next has warned sales could fall by as much as 40% over the year and that it plans to open out-of-town outlets first.

The standard.co.uk, has reported that fashion retailer Next – which reopened its online trading on April 14 – has seen a 41% drop in full-price sales over its first quarter to April 25, with high street sales down 52% and online sales off 32%.

This follows the sale of three of its warehouses to Aviva Investors as part of a deal to raise cash to cover the coronavirus lockdown, reported April 15.

Next fears full-year sales could fall by as much as 40%, with the effects of the pandemic expected to leave sales lower in every quarter, even after lockdown restrictions are lifted. Sales are expected to fall by as much as 62% over its second quarter and could still be 28% lower over the fourth quarter to next January in the worst-case scenario.

Next said it has plans in place to reopen stores when lockdown is lifted, but would be prioritising out-of-town outlets first, where it is easier to operate in a “socially distanced world”.

The retailer warns that it will “take some time for customers to return to their normal shopping habits” and that sales will remain “very subdued” once restrictions are lifted.

Nearly a quarter – 24% – of its 8,794 staff cannot work due to childcare or because they are vulnerable or are living with vulnerable people, but it hopes around 70% of its normal workforce capacity will retunr to work within the next two weeks.

It initially furloughed 88% of staff through the government scheme, though this figure has now reduced to 84% after opening the internet operation.

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