RETAILER Next is expecting an 11.5 per cent rise in annual pre-tax profits, after enjoying year-on-year growth in sales in the run-up to Christmas.

The company said yesterday that full-price sales for the 58 days to Christmas Eve were up by 2.9 per cent, "towards the upper end of the fourth-quarter sales guidance we issued in our October statement".

It said sales were up by 0.5 per cent at its retail arm and 7.5 per cent at its directory branch.

Next said its total sales in the first 11 months of its financial year to January 24, 2015, were up by 7.7 per cent.

The retailer, which operates in 72 countries, updated its full-year predictions.

It said it entered into its end-of-season sale with "significantly more stock than last year," and so far clearance rates had been in line with its expectations.

The business now believes full-year profits will be "within £10m either side of £775m, which is £5m ahead of the midpoint profit guidance we issued in October".

Also for the full year it expects earnings per share to be up by 13.5 per cent compared with 366.1p last year.

Considering the year ahead, Next said the economic outlook for the UK consumer appears "relatively benign".

It added: "However we remain very cautions in our sales budgets for the year ahead."

Next said sales in the first half of this year were boosted by "unusually" warm weather, meaning that next year's spring and summer figures will struggle to compare.

"There is potential upside in the second half as our sales comparisons weaken, although uncertainty in the UK political outlook and turbulence in the international economy present potential downside risks," the company said, adding that it is budgeting for full-price sales growth in 2015/16 of 2.5 per cent to 7.5 per cent.