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UK fashion retailer Next cruises through high street demise

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Next Plc shares are up 44 per cent year-to-date, the second-biggest gainer on the benchmark FTSE 100 index.

London

AMID all the precariousness of Brexit and talk of the death of the high street, a humble clothing seller counters the pessimism as one of the UK's best-performing blue chips of 2019.

Next Plc shares are up 44 per cent year-to-date, the second-biggest gainer on the benchmark FTSE 100 index. The stock held onto those gains on Wednesday as the company said first-quarter sales growth exceeded its internal forecast.

While the latest revenue gain was clearly helped by some warm April weather, Liberum analysts note that the performance "speaks to the strength of the group's proposition, and to management's ability to execute a successful total retail strategy that sees its store estate supporting growth in the online business".

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The growth of the retailer's online business means it now almost matches Next's stores in terms of sales, each division generating just under £2 billion ($2.6 billion) of revenue in the most recent financial year.

Other attractions for investors include a strong balance sheet, good cash generation and a well-covered dividend, according to Liberum analyst Tom Musson, who has a buy rating on the stock.

While the shares remain almost 30 per cent below their 2015 peak, Next is proving resilient among retailing peers. BLOOMBERG