FASHION chain Next saw online growth outweigh a decline in shop sales as it beat expectations for the end of 2019.

Next recorded a 5.2 per cent increase in sales for the period to December 28 –1.1 per cent ahead of company forecasts.

Total sales in retail stores were 3.9 per cent lower for the two months to December 28 and fell 4.6 per cent in the year to date.

However, Next was buoyed by continued online growth, as digital sales rose 12.1 per cent for the year-to-date, driven by a 15.3 per cent jump in the most recent period.

The retailer has branches at Southampton’s Westquay Shopping Centre, Eastleigh, Whiteley, Fareham and Havant, as well as home only stores in Southampton city centre and Hedge End.

Next believes its sales for the Christmas period were boosted by a "much colder November than last year and improved stock availability" in both retail stores and online.

Full price sales for the 11 months to the end of December rose by 3.9 per cent as the retailer also predicted sales growth would surpass previous expectations.

It said it expects sales to continue to be 3.9 per cent higher by the end of the financial year, January 31, up from the previous guidance of 3.6 per cent growth for the year.

The company said it now expects to post a full-year profit of around £727 million, raising its previous forecast by £2 million.

Richard Lim, chief executive of Retail Economics, said: "This was an impressive end to the year as their outstanding online business continues to set them apart from the competition.

"The retailer is benefiting from years of investment in their digital proposition, continually evolving their business model to meet shoppers' heightened expectations."