The Chairman of Next, Michael Roney, has released the following statement as the company publishes its financial results for year ending 31 January 2021…
In last year’s Full Year Results, published just as the UK went into lockdown, we stated that our sector was facing a crisis unprecedented in living memory. We also stated that our strong balance sheet and profit margins would allow us to weather the storm.
Both statements have proved true. A year on, NEXT has delivered profit before tax of £342m (2019/20: £729m, both pre-IFRS 16) in line with the central guidance issued in our January 2021 Trading Statement. Despite most of our stores being closed for a significant portion of 2020/21, Total1 Group sales decreased by less than 17% to £3.6bn (2019/20: £4.4bn).
In April 2020, we stated our intention to suspend all capital returns to shareholders for the duration of the financial year and until the situation stabilises. Given the continuing uncertainty around when our stores will reopen, no final dividend is proposed for 2020/21 and our share buyback programme remains suspended. We remain committed to returning capital to shareholders in the long term and will review our position later in the year when we have better visibility of our trade once our stores reopen.
Our cash resources have been carefully managed with a number of actions taken to conserve cash during the year. As a result, net debt reduced to £610m (2019/20: £1.1bn).
We expect the shift in consumer behaviour towards Online sales to continue for some time and one of our priorities during the year has been to continue the development of our Online platform. We accelerated part of our planned capital expenditure in the Online business, spending £121m on warehousing and systems.
During the year, the Board appointed Tom Hall as a non-executive director to replace Francis Salway, who has served on our Board for over nine years and will step down at the 20 May 2021 AGM. On behalf of the other directors, I would like to thank Francis for his very significant contribution to the Board and to the Remuneration Committee during his time with NEXT. I have particularly valued his hard work as Chairman of our Remuneration Committee. We will miss Francis’ unflappable and persistent good sense. Tom will take over the role of Chair of the Remuneration Committee and Jonathan Bewes will take over the role of Senior Independent Director on Francis’ retirement at the 2021 AGM.
I believe that in difficult times there is a clearer separation between the stronger corporate performers and the weaker ones. This result is due to the formation of a good management team and the establishment of robust processes during less volatile periods. Our continued investment over many years in our people and our systems has shown resilient results in the past year.
The strength of the Group is built on the hard work and dedication of all NEXT’s people and this year has highlighted their resilience and ability to work together in times of crisis. I would like to thank them for their outstanding work during an extremely demanding year.