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WHAT’S NEXT FOR NEXT? – Topshop’s gone. Debenhams too. But Next are thriving. How does Lord Wolfson do it?

In the days before Asos and Amazon, Next Directory let you order a dress from your sofa and be wearing it within days.

The once unthinkable has already happened – major retail names like Debenhams and Top Shop have disappeared from the British high street. Both brands acquired by online titans. Boohoo and Asos, respectively.

But as Business Live reported recently, Next goes from strength to strength. With results for the year to January 2022, showing the retailer performing “ten per cent above pre-pandemic levels.”

Its total sales for the year up 11.5 per cent to £4.862 billion.

So, what’s Lord Wolfson’s secret? An ability to think the unthinkable is part of it.

As The Guardian reports, Next’s robust performance stems from “a concept its CEO Simon Wolfson started developing five years ago, after reflecting on what the brand’s real competitive advantages were.”

The answer he came up with was leveraging Next’s historical infrastructure. The Guardian again, “in the days before Asos and Amazon, Next Directory let you order a dress from your sofa and be wearing it within days. The warehousing, distribution, credit, and logistics operations Next created in the 80s to fulfil those orders put it miles ahead of its rivals.”

And here’s the unthinkable part – Wolfson then invited his retail rivals to use it.

The peer decided to make the infrastructure available to anyone who wanted it. Let other brands access Next’s tried-and-tested back-end and logistics. In doing so they draw more traffic to the Next site. The company call this the ‘Total Platform.’

“Next online is starting to resemble a kind of online department store or mini-Amazon, a one-stop shop for everything from school uniform to sofas,” say The Guardian. “And increasingly it’s where once-loved brands that struggled to stay afloat on the high street, from Orla Kiely and Monsoon to Victoria’s Secret, live on.”

As Wolfson himself told Internet Retailer, “the possibilities of the internet age present the group with far more opportunities than threats.”

Continuing to think the unthinkable. That’s what’s next for Next.

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