HIGH street retailer Next has revealed strong Christmas sales.

The store says sales increased by about 12 per cent between November 1 and Christmas Eve compared to the same period last year.

Bosses have now increased full-year profit forecasts to up to £700m.

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They added its festive success was boosted by increased sales in seasonal knitwear, nightwear and gift offers.

Sales in its stores, which include branches in Darlington, Middlesbrough, Durham City and Gateshead, increased by 7.7 per cent in the lead up to Christmas Day, with online sales rising by 21 per cent.

The results come after department stores John Lewis and House of Fraser both revealed strong festive performances helped by rising like-for-like sales, though Debenhams was forced to issue a profits warning after poor Christmas sales.

In a report, Next says it expects the retail sector to continue its slow improvement in 2014, but remained wary over reduced consumer spending.

It said: “The step-up in Christmas trade was mainly down to improvements in seasonal knitwear, nightwear and gift offer and increased confidence in online deliveries.

“However, it is very unlikely the strength shown in this quarter will continue through the first half of the new financial year.

“It seems likely that the economy will continue to steadily improve with strong employment numbers driving a general recovery, but the problem of little or no growth in real earnings looks set to persist for some time.

“We cannot see any reason to expect a significant increase in total consumer spending in the year ahead.”