Next, Britain's second largest clothing retailer, raised its annual profit forecast after fourth quarter sales came in significantly ahead of its previous guidance.

The firm has said it expected a year to end-January 2014 pretax profit of £684-700 million.

Its previous forecast was £650-680 million.

Next, which unlike rivals has a long standing policy of never going on sale before Christmas, said total sales rose 11.9% in the 1 November to 24 December period and are now up 5% year to date.

That compares with a rise of 4.3% in its third quarter and previous company guidance for full year sales growth of 2-3.75%.

Next was again reliant on a strong performance from its Directory internet and catalogue business, where sales soared 21%.

Sales at its 700 stores worldwide – including 29 in Ireland - increased by 7.7%.