Next is planning to fit out stores with prosecco bars, hairdressers, coffee shops and even a car showroom as it battles to win back customers.
Lamenting the fashion retailer’s most challenging year in a quarter of a century, chief executive Simon Wolfson yesterday unveiled his blueprint to revive the High Street chain, which traces its roots back to 1864.
With profits from its shops tumbling 24 per cent last year, Next is launching a fightback by renting out space to travel agents, florists, wedding-dress makers and spas to coax shoppers back.
Next is planning to fit out stores with prosecco bars, hairdressers, coffee shops and even a car showroom as it battles to win back customers
The company is even opening a car showroom at its store in the Arndale Centre in Manchester, where Ford will display five models.
The shake-up – which Wolfson admitted could leave Next looking like a department store – comes just days after John Lewis opened its ‘department store of the future’ in west London’s Westfield shopping centre.
The store has its own spa, personal stylist service and offers classes for customers to learn how to host a dinner party or make Easter cards.
High Street chains face an onslaught from online retailers such as Amazon.
Toys R Us and Maplin crashed into administration this year, New Look is preparing to shut 60 stores, leaving 980 staff unemployed, while the future of Mothercare and Moss Bros hang in the balance.
The company is even opening a car showroom at its store in the Arndale Centre in Manchester (pictured), where Ford will display five models
‘In many ways, 2017 was the most challenging year we have faced for 25 years,’ said Wolfson.
He admitted Next made mistakes last year – stocking clothes that customers did not want even after they were put on sale.
Store sales fell 7.9 per cent to £2.1billion while shop profits were down 24 per cent to £268.7million. But online sales rose 9.2 per cent to £1.9billion.
Overall profits fell 8.1 per cent to £726.1million – its second consecutive annual drop – while total sales slid 0.5 per cent to £4.1billion.
With profits from its shops tumbling 24% last year, Next is launching a fightback by renting out space to travel agents, florists, wedding-dress makers and spas to coax shoppers back
Natalie Berg, retail analyst at NBK Retail, said: ‘The store of the future won’t just be a place to buy stuff, but also to eat, discover, play and even work.’
Next has introduced as many different concessions as possible in its biggest store at the Arndale so customers have the option of getting a massage or a glass of prosecco at the same time as buying a sofa or pair of shoes.
The store already features an activity centre for children, a Paperchase stationery shop and an Italian restaurant backed by celebrity chef Gino D’Acampo.
The Arndale store will be used as a test centre to see which concessions work before they are rolled out to other regions.
Wolfson claimed Next was not trying to replicate John Lewis or other department stores.
‘We’re not trying to be anything that’s already been done; we’re just trying to make money,’ he said. ‘If it doesn’t work, we won’t do any more of them.’
But Neil Wilson, an analyst at ETX Capital, said: ‘I think the department store is not the way to go. Debenhams and House of Fraser are clearly struggling.
‘But there is an argument for it – it’s cheap to do and makes the most of the existing space.
‘My contention is they then get bogged down in more and more stores which may boost sales but margins will suffer.’
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