Next is a source of never ending frustration for me. It is one of the most ubiquitous shops on the British High Street, and one of the most inviting looking. Better yet it claims to offer mainstream sizing up to 22 and most stores now have a least a small petite section. I think it is a shop that attracts tremendous loyalty from devotees. In a hangover from their 80's origins it offers a co-ordinated "lifestyle" in a way which no other mass market store can compete with. In their adverts often you find a male and female model literally matched up clotheswise which is something no other store does. I know of one person -married, with a small son who rarely buys clothes or homewares anywhere else. Commendably their "Directory" has always prominently featured models from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, if not sizes.
However the designs it does sell are dreadfully pedestrian. Fashion led items are generally a season behind where everyone else has cottoned on to something. Witness this seasons emphasis on folky smocks. Next also has a touching devotion to cargo pants (they call them boarding trousers) which it features without fail year round. I think of these as their emblematic item these are essentially clothes made for wandering around shopping malls.
Where Next should score better is in office wear. They have the highest concentration of affordable business suits in the mass market. But for aliens like me there is a fundamental problem in their persistent failure to display any stock over a size 18. When you are an awkward size one of the last things you want to do is ask the (generally clueless) sales assistant for help checking the stock room and this has never gotten me anywhere in the past anyway and I'm told that I should just order from the catalogue. So much for impulse buying.
I do find this lip service to larger sizes really insulting. Next have recently introduced a small selection of clothes in a size 24-28 for sale only in their catalogue. But the items are not shown on a model and there is no business wear. Probably the best of the selection is a belted black jersey dress, but this is precisely the kind of thing that a buyer should try on before buying to get an idea of how it suits their body. (I tried on my first wrap dress in the wonderful Curvy Girl in Edinburgh after being persuaded by the assistant and immediately felt sexier)