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Personalisation key to growth, says Shop Direct boss

Shop Direct will rely on big data and personalisation to compete with its pure-play rivals rather than a race to the bottom on delivery, according to chief executive Alex Baldock.

Myleene Class for Very.co.uk

Myleene Class for Very.co.uk

Myleene Class for Very.co.uk

“We keep a close eye on our competitors, but everyone chooses where they compete and we’re choosing to do it through harnessing big data and personalisation,” Baldock told Drapers.

“We have looked at things like extending our cut-off for orders (currently 7pm) but it’s very important that we keep our promises and if things do go wrong, we are able to recover really well and really quickly. 

“Instead we’ve tailored the online experience for our shopper; everything from the marketing that brings her in to the way she shops and the way we engage with her after.”

The group, which owns Very.co.uk, VeryExclusive.co.uk and Littlewoods.com, today posted a 78% surge in full year pre-tax profit to £71.7m in the year to June 3.

Baldock revealed plans to relaunch Very’s own label offer, which currently includes lines from Myleen Klass and Rochelle Humes, but declined to provide further details.

“We’ve got some exciting plans for our own label business in the coming months; we’re going to be relaunching and revitalising our offering. We have a plan to become world famous for our labels.”

Shop Direct’s record profit uplift was driven by sales growth in Very, which delivered more than £850m in sales. Together, Very and its luxury sister site Very Exclusive’s sales were up 21.1%.

Baldock admitted Littlewoods is not a growing business, he said it is “stable and much loved”.

The Littlewoods catalogue was axed in May after 80 years. Baldock said: “We’ve transformed quickly to this more focused business - only three years ago, nearly three-quarters of our sales were from catalogue customers.”

He would not say if the move had resulted in any job losses.

“What we’ve seen from going pure-play is it requires very different skills, everything is different online,” he said. ”To do that you do need different skills and kit. There’s a lot of hiring going, we’re hiring heavily in our ecommerce and technology science teams.”

In September it emerged that almost 700 jobs are at risk at two Shop Direct call centres in Aintree and Bolton. Baldock said the consultation was ongoing.

“In customer services, our shoppers are expecting to deal with us digitally, they don’t want to pick up the phone and we’re changing the way we work to reflect that,” he added.

 Baldock said the business has made a strong start to the new financial year and is in good shape for the peak period, including Black Friday, when it will run two weeks of promotions.

“We really like Black Friday, as do our customers. If you’ve got good supplier relationships and are imaginative about how you go about it, it can serve a great commercial purpose, you can win market share, attract new customers and make money.”

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