On Wednesday 3 January Next issued a profit warning which triggered a dive in the retailer's share price and revived concerns that 2017 could be a challenging year for some high street retailers.
Next's shares closed down 14% following the announcement. Other household names, such as Marks and Spencer and Debenhams, also experienced a fall in share price.
Next's full-price sales fell 0.4% in the 54 days to 24 December with the retailer’s traditionally popular post-Christmas sales down 7% compared with last year. In November, Next said profits would range from £785m to £825m. On Wednesday the retailer warned profits were expected to be closer to £792m with potential for the figure to fall by a further £7m “depending on trade in January”. Next predicts next year's profit will fall by 2%-14%.
So why are certain high street retailers struggling? A combination of factors could be to blame:
- unseasonal weather - the erratic great British weather didn’t help matters in 2016 with many clothes retailers struggling to stock appropriate seasonal wear;
- increased base costs – examples include the post-Brexit devaluation of the pound, the new National Living Wage, a revaluation of the national business rates, increasing energy taxes and the Apprenticeship Levy. Retailers now face a tough decision as to whether they try to absorb these costs or pass them on to their customers. Next predicts that its customers could face price increases of up to 5% for identical garments in 2017;
- a shift in consumer spending habits – consumer spending data suggests that many households are prioritising spending on experiences such as holidays and eating out over spending on products, food and clothes;
- inflation - inflation is also starting to bite on real earnings causing concerns that there will be a general decrease in spending over 2017.
Despite these factors, it's not all doom and gloom on the high street as some retailers continue to prosper. Discount retailer B&M was full of festive cheer as its sales rose 7.2% in the run up to Christmas, as were John Lewis which boasted a 36% year-on-year increase in sales during the week before Christmas and Mamas & Papas which recorded its best trading day in history on 27 December.