And it is so bullish it is to hand £240million back to shareholders and has already repaid £29million in business rates relief received when its stores were closed.
Next’s shops have traded strongly since they reopened. Chief executive Lord Wolfson said group full-price sales for the 11 weeks to July 17 were up 18.6 per cent after it had previously forecast three per cent.
He attributed the surge to pent-up demand for summer clothes, the warm weather and people spending cash saved during the pandemic in the UK because they cannot go abroad.
Lord Wolfson said: “We do not expect sales to continue at these exceptionally strong levels, but we are more optimistic about the outlook than we were three months ago.”
Next did not pay any dividends last year due to the pandemic but it feels that its trading and balance sheet is strong enough for it to pay a 110p per share special dividend – worth £140million – to investors in September.
The retailer will announce another dividend worth £100million in December.
Meanwhile, 17,000 high-street stores could be opened over the course of the next 12 months as shoppers increasingly spend locally post-pandemic, according to Barclays Corporate Banking.
It added that 40 per cent of people are looking to shop more in stores over the coming year.
Elsewhere, Mulberry bounced back into the black thanks in part to strong digital sales and demand in Asia.
The fashion group said that it made a pre-tax profit of £4.6million for the 12 months to March 27 compared with a loss of £47.9million for the year before.
Aside from its online and Asian sales, its results were helped by cost cuts and a lack of write-offs.