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Mobile and technology investment drives profit surge at Shop Direct

Shop Direct’s underlying pre-tax profit soared by 43.6% to £150.4m in the 53 weeks to 30 June, driven by a strong performance at lifestyle site Very and growth in mobile transactions across the group.

V by Very

V by Very

V by Very launched on 5 September

Group sales were up 4.3% to £1.9bn, marking the fourth consecutive year of growth. Within this, Very’s sales rose 15.9% to £1.1bn.

Almost two-thirds (62%) of transactions across the business were made via mobile devices, up from 56% the year before.

It added new features including push notifications and touch ID to its MyVery app, which is nearing 1 million downloads.

This was Shop Direct’s first full financial year as a pure-play etailer, after it ceased catalogue production in early 2015.

The business has also consolidated its websites, migrating customers of Isme, Woolworths and K and Co to Very and Littlewoods.

Chief executive Alex Baldock said: “Removing the shackles of the catalogue has been liberating, and has allowed us to invest in the areas that matter most to our customers – making their shopping experience easier and more personalised, particularly on mobile.”

Shop Direct has also continued to improve its data, personalisation and pricing technology, and is investing in developing new technologies, including in the arena of artificial intelligence.

“This was the year our investments in technology really started to pay off,” said Baldock. “We’ve made big strides in m-commerce, big data and personalisation.

“But there’s a lot more to play for in these areas. In particular, we believe that artificial intelligence can change the game for us in data and personalisation. We’re deploying it already and are serious about going much further.”

During the year, Shop Direct added 150 brands to its roster, including Whistles. It now carries more than 1,300 brands across fashion, footwear, home, electrical and beauty.

Clothing and footwear sales grew 5.4% during the year.

“We’re getting better at a continual flow of product to customers throughout the year. We can respond faster to changes in taste, or in weather,” Baldock explained.

New own-label men’s, women’s and children’s wear brand V by Very launched on 5 September. It is expected to bring in £170m in sales in its first year.

“This is a massive initiative for us this year,” said Baldock. “We’ve consolidated 12 of our labels into V by Very. We’ll keep So Fabulous and Ladybird, but V by Very is what we want to be famous for.”

The business is also gearing up to introduce a menswear version of its premium site Very Exclusive on 20 September.

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