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In History: a timeline of Next - marking 40 years of a British fashion icon

Jeremy Lim
11 February 2022

British multinational high street retailer Next is celebrating its 40th anniversary this weekend, marking another decade and chapter for the UK's largest clothing retailer by sales. It story began with the openings of its first seven stores on 12 February 1982.

Founded as a tailoring business in 1964 by Joseph Hepworth, the Leicestershire-based retailer has expanded rapidly to form a nationwide retail chain and mainstay of the high street shopping districts under the creative and business prowess of English fashion designer and retailer, George Davies.

As Chief Executive, Davies' blueprint was to pioneer a more sophisticated approach to fashion retailing, centred around colour-coordinated outfits that were presented in-store as "stories". Back then, stores were still sectioned by departments, with trousers in one section and jackets in another.

The first year of Next brand operations would see a turnover of more than £82 million. By 1986, the company went on an aggressive expansion that saw revenues explode from £190 million to more than £1.1 billion in 1988.

George Davies at the launch of the Next Directory. Image: Alamy

Despite a brief decline which led to heavy losses and the eventual departure of Davies, Next returned to profits in 1992 under the helm of David Jones, who trimmed down the company's operations to a single, multidepartment format under the "One brand, Two Methods of Shopping" business strategy.

Present CEO Simon Wolfson, who joined Next as a sales consultant at the Kensington branch in 1991 before becoming CEO at the age of just 33, capitalised on the company's heritage as a catalogue retailer to gain a head start on the growing e-commerce market, diversifying from its bricks and mortar stores. Last year, Next launched the Total Platform pay-as-you-go service, which offers third-party brands access to the retailer's online logistics and back-end systems.

Today, the FTSE 100 business operates a chain of around 550 retail branches in the UK, with around 200 mainly franchised international stores in 36 countries. The retailer is set to open its first ever megastore that brings its fashion, beauty and home offerings under one roof to create a department store-style emporium at Atria Watford in April.


Next, Oxford Street

Timeline: Next's history and milestones

1864: The company was founded by Joseph Hepworth in Leeds under the name of Joseph Hepworth & Son.

1981: Hepworth & Son acquires womenswear retailer, Kendall and Sons, for £1.75 million from the retail conglomerate, Combined English Stores. The acquisition handed Hepworth over 600 shops in British high streets. The company also recruited George Davies, who revamped the retail concept to create a new chain, called Next, initially by converting Kendall's 70 stores.

1982: The first Next womenswear store opened on 12 February 1982, with Next stores around the UK by the end of July. Based around "the total concept look" or stories, it encouraged customers to mix and match within a style, resulting in the average Next customer buying more items than the one they had entered the shop to purchase.

An early Next store in Middlesbrough

1984: Appointed as Chief Executive, Davies converts 50 Hepworth stores to the Next format, extending "the total concept look" to cover menswear in August. By December, there are 52 menswear stores, as well as the first mini department store in Edinburgh incorporating womenswear, menswear, shoes and a café.

1985: The company expanded its product category and retail format with the launch of the Next Interiors concept, featuring home furnishings under the Next brand names. Next opened its first store offering all of the company's product lines in Regent Street, London, and acquired rival clothing retailer, Lord John.

1986: Davies moves the group's headquarters from Leeds to Leicester, to be closer to the main garment manufacturers, and the retail chain's parent company, J Hepworth & Son changes its name to Next plc.

1987: Next plc acquires Combined English Stores and mail order company, Grattan plc. The company expands its range to introduce Next childrenswear, before Davies introduces the Next Directory, based around four key concepts - a traditional catalogue directory, an editorial directory, a swatch sample and 48-hour delivery service.

1988: Following seven years of ever-increasing growth and expansion, Next plc went through turbulent times, leading to the sacking of Davies. The company's Chairman Sir David Jones took over as Chief Executive, and was instrumental in turning its fortunes around.

1993: Next introduces its brand strategy of "One Brand; Two Ways of Shopping", bringing together the common ranges across both retail and home shopping formats.

1994: Next's 300th store opens. The brand is now trading in 16 countries worldwide.

1999: Launch of shopping on the internet from Next directory at, further extending the company's business strategy to "One Brand; Three ways of shopping".

Next is an innovator in online retail

2009: Next extends its home shopping facility to the USA and over 30 other countries worldwide through The business was named British High Street Retailer of the Year.

2011: Next opens its first combined fashion, home & garden store at Shoreham-by-Sea.

2015: Next opened its 546th store, while trading online in more than 70 countries woldwide.

2018: Next Directory rebranded as Online.

2020: In April, Next launched Total Platform service, which aims to leverage its online infrastructure through commission on sales made via the websites that it operates in full on behalf of third-party brands and retailers. Childsplay Clothing, the first Total Platform client, launches its site. Next also secured the joint venture deal for the UK arm of US lingerie business Victoria's Secret.

2021: Next acquired 25% of British fashion brand, Reiss and agreed to a joint venture to operate Gap’s e-commerce business.

2022: Next launches in-house beauty brand, Woah, with further plans to open its first ever megastore that brings its fashion, beauty and home offerings under one roof to create a department store-style emporium at Atria Watford in April.

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