The boss of Next has seen his annual pay soar to a five-year high of £3.4 million thanks to a bumper shares award as the retail giant weathered torrid high street conditions amid the pandemic.

Chief executive Lord Simon Wolfson enjoyed a 28% pay hike thanks to a £2.4 million long-term shares bonus – taking his overall package to the highest since 2015-16, according to the group’s annual report.

The shares boost offset a 20% pandemic salary cut for all directors of the group between April and June last year, while they also agreed to forgo annual bonuses.

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Next results
Next chief executive Lord Simon Wolfson saw his pay package surge by 28% (Next/PA)

Lord Wolfson’s pay details follow annual results for Next earlier this month revealing profits plunged 54% to £342 million in the year to January as its high street stores suffered amid repeated lockdowns.

But shares in the firm have soared by more than three quarters over the past year as Next has bolstered its performance with impressive online sales.

It raised its profit forecast for 2021-22 alongside the recent annual results after online sales were better than expected in February and March, up 60% on the same period two years ago.

Next is therefore expecting to post a pre-tax profit of £700 million for the current financial year, up from its previous target of £670 million.

Lord Wolfson’s pay haul means he earned 178 times the average Next worker’s salary of £18,802 a year, the annual report showed.

It comes after the group moved last year to increase the potential payout under its long-term incentive scheme from 200% of salary to 225%.

The report also revealed Lord Wolfson saw his annual base salary rise by 0.6% to £824,000 in February, in line with the awards made across the workforce.

But it also showed that employees across the firm stand to benefit from the stellar gains seen in Next stock over the past year, with around 26% or 9,500 of its workforce holding around 6.4 million shares between them.

Lord Wolfson’s shares bonus cheer at Next will be welcome, given his participation in Deliveroo’s flop initial public offering last month.

He was appointed as non-executive director of the food delivery giant in January ahead of its stock market float and has a 0.2% stake in the firm, whose shares plunged after listing.