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Shop Direct to run Black Friday promotions over two weeks

Shop Direct will offer two weeks of promotions around this year’s Black Friday and is already in conversation with suppliers to secure deals to make the event bigger and better.

Chief executive Alex Baldock could not say if its new luxury website Very Exclusive, due to launch next month, will be involved in the two-week discount extravaganza later this year, but said the 2014 event helped Shop Direct to profitably gain market share.

“Traders like us will thrive in the environment that Black Friday creates and we’re happy it’s here to stay.”

Very Exclusive is the next big launch for Shop Direct and will be introduced on February 19 to coincide with London Fashion Week. More than 130 brands are signed up, including See by Chloé and Vivienne Westwood Anglomania.

“The proposition is that it makes luxury brands accessible through our credit facilities for customers, so we’re not looking at this as a promotional vehicle in that sense,” explained Baldock.

The Very business, which sells men’s, women’s and kids’ clothing plus furniture, homewares and electricals, was a major factor in Shop Direct’s festive success and Baldock pointed out it is now twice the size of in the UK. Group sales were up 4% in the seven weeks to December 26, led by a 23% sales rise at Very.

Black Friday was the busiest trading day on record for Shop Direct and sales at Very soared 134% year on year. Baldock said 2014’s Black Friday has changed the retail landscape.

“I’ve never seen shoes disappear so quickly,” he said. “Ugg and Converse were huge for us, and brands like River Island traded very well.”

Littlewoods and K&Co did not fare as well, recording a sales decline of 11% during the period. Baldock said: “Littlewoods and KandCo are our heritage brands and not driving growth but they continue to play an important part in the portfolio. Very is the largest and fastest-growing part of the group.”

Mobile was also a key part of Shop Direct’s festive success, said Baldock, with sales made by smartphone or tablet accounting for 56% of total online sales over the seven-week period.

“We’re continuing to capitalise on the shift to mobile and we’re about 15 percentage points ahead of the market,” he explained. “There are some basic things to get right such as fully optimising your site for mobile but it is also about things like providing a seamless experience across devices, so for example if a customer is browsing the site on her mobile and puts a dress in her basket, that same dress should still be in her basket on her tablet later too. There are hygiene factors like predictive text and also the fact that the customer is always on, but you only ever get a share of her attention.”

Baldock said he was cautiously optimistic for 2015 and more optimistic than he was six months ago, as it looked like the bigger picture was improving for consumers.

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