Next plc is an multinational clothing, footwear and home products retailer headquartered in Enderby, Leicestershire. It has around 700 stores, of which 540 are in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and around 200 are in continental Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Next is the largest clothing retailer by sales in the United Kingdom, having overtaken Marks & Spencer in early 2012. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.
The company was founded by Joseph Hepworth in Leeds in 1864 as a tailor under the name of Joseph Hepworth & Son.
In 1982 Hepworth & Son acquired Kendall & Sons Ltd, a Leicester-based rainwear and ladies fashion company from Combined English Stores. The intention was to redevelop the Kendall's stores as a womenswear chain of shops. Terence Conran, the designer, was Chairman of Hepworth's at this time and he recruited George Davies, who went on to become Chief Executive of Next.
The first Next shops opened on 12 February 1982, with the Kendall's conversion complete by the end of 1983.
Made chief executive in 1984, Davies then converted the 50 Hepworths stores to the Next format, extending the total concept look at the same time to cover menswear. This allowed the development mini department across the entire footprint, selling women's and men's and clothes. This was added to by the introduction of Next interiors to stores which were deemed in the "right demographical areas." In 1986, Davies moved the groups headquarters from Leeds to Leicester, to be closer to the main garment manufacturers, and the company name was changed to Next plc.
In 1987, the group acquired Combined English Stores and the Grattan catalogue company. Extending first to introduce Next childrenswear, Davies then introduced the Next Directory.
The company bought the youth brand Lipsy in 2008. In October 1988 Next sold 433 jewellery stores in the United Kingdom, which principally traded under the Salisburys and Zales brands, to the Ratners Group for US$232 million.
In Autumn 2009, Next launched an online catalogue for the United States offering clothing, shoes and accessories for women, men and children.