British fashion retailer Next has reported a 5.0% increase in profit before tax (PBT), reaching £918m ($1.168bn) for the year ending January 2024. 

Profit after tax was £702m, down 2.0% from £716m in the previous fiscal year.  

The retailer’s PBT, including brand amortisation, saw a 4.4% increase to £908m. 

The statutory PBT of Next rose by 16.9% to £1.01bn during the year.  

The retailer achieved total group sales of £5.84bn, a 5.9% increase from the previous year’s figure of £5.51bn. 

Full-price sales for Next were up by 4.0% for the year, and online sales grew by 5% to £3.16bn.  

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Its statutory revenue also saw a rise of 9.1% to £5.49bn.

The company’s post-tax earnings per share (EPS) increased marginally by 0.3% to 578.8p.  

During the year, Next reduced its net debt, excluding lease debt, by £97m to £700m. 

The retailer plans to further decrease net debt by £75m as part of a broader plan to repay a £250m bond maturing in August 2025. 

Next chairman Michael Roney said: “In the context of the wider economic environment, the year to January 2024 was a very good one for Next and the business materially outperformed our initial expectations. 

“Cash flow remained strong and we returned £425m to shareholders through a combination of dividends (£248m) and share buybacks (£177m)”. 

Next forecasts an underlying full-price sales growth of 2.5% and a total group sales increase of 6% in the year ending January 2025.  

The company’s profit guidance is set at £960m, up by 4.6%, with a projected post-tax EPS of 606.3p, an increase of 4.8%. 

It aims to scale up its spending on new space to £22m with three new store openings. 

In February 2024, Next held talks with administrators handling the insolvency of cosmetics chain The Body Shop, seeking to acquire parts of the business.