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Shop Direct extends Black Friday to a full week

Shop Direct is getting ready for a week of Christmas promotions to build on the success of last year, when the etailer’s first Black Friday campaign generated the highest ever daily orders for Very.co.uk.

Very, which has grown to become the biggest brand in the group and saw sales soar by 23.1% to more than £700m in the year to June 30, received 10,000 orders during the busiest hour on Black Friday (November 29) last year. This year Black Friday falls on November 28.

“Last year we had hourly deals on Friday, so this year we are planning hourly promotions throughout the entire last week of November for what we are calling ‘Cyber Week’,” explained deputy chief executive Gareth Jones.

Clothing and footwear accounts for a third of the total Shop Direct business, which reported that pre-tax profits jumped 512% to £40.4m during the year, driven mainly by mobile sales and Very. The group’s more traditional offer, Littlewoods.com and KandCo.com, saw sales fall 7.6%.

Jones is looking forward to a strong Christmas period, but said the environment is still challenging, as customers tend to leave their purchases later nowadays and promotional activity on the high street is likely to become more intense. “After a tough September, I suspect there will be some very heavy discounting happening on the high street,” he said.

“We have largely been sheltered from the difficult conditions for clothing sales in September because we have no retail stores, but one challenge we are not immune to is the fact that our customers are still finding it hard.

“The good news is that we bought for promotions this year,” he said. “We used our buying power to buy at the right price so, while we aren’t planning mass discounting that damages margins, we will be giving our customers promotions because that is what they like.”

Mobile has been a particular success story from the group’s last year of trading, with 44% of all online sales made using mobile devices, up from 27% in 2013.

Alex Baldock, group chief executive, said: “Mobile continues to be a game-changer for us, with more than half of our online sales now from smartphones and tablets. It’s clear that our strategy is working and we’ve made some big strides towards building a world-class digital retailer. But we’re nowhere near the full potential of this business. There’s a ton more to do and we’ll continue to invest heavily to get it done.”

Jones said: “Mobile has done very well, but our next priority is all about customer experience – so it is using data and customer intelligence about what types of dresses they are buying, their preferred payment options and deliveries – to power an easier, frictionless transaction.”

He said plans for the new luxury etail site VeryExclusive.co.uk are on track to launch during London Fashion Week in February. “We will be launching 150 brands across womenswear, beauty and accessories,” he said. “75% of this is now bought.”

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