Online retail giant Shop Direct has announced its fifth consecutive year of record sales and profits, citing its digital fashion store Very and m-commerce as its two biggest drivers of growth.
The group, which also operates Very Exclusive and Littlewoods, posted a 10.2% growth in profit before tax to £160.4m and a 5.6% increase in like-for-like sales to £1.93bn for the 52 weeks to July 1.
Lingerie and swimwear retailer Very achieved a growth in sales of 14.6% to £1.26bn while underlying profit before tax grew by 10.2% to £160.4m.
Sales made on mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, comprised 69% of overall sales, up seven percentage points on last year, while sales via smartphones made up 53% of online sales for the first time, up 10 percentage points compared with 2016.
Building on its m-commerce success, the online retailer said it will launch its Artificial Intelligence-powered customer service chatbot within the My Very app later this year.
The platform will be designed to answer 32 different types of customer query, recognising over 4,000 written phrases.
Shop Direct group CEO Alex Baldock said: “Our long-term investments in digital, data, personalisation and Very are coming good. And our obsession with winning the ‘three-second audition’ on smartphones also continues to pay off. We’re delivering one of the most relevant shopping experiences on a 4.7-inch screen, with our five-star apps, digital marketing expertise and leadership in personalisation.
“Our customer already loves the upgrade she gets from our famous brands plus credit, but this business is still nowhere near its full potential. Using personalisation, we’re striving to be the easiest and most inspiring place to shop.
“We don’t expect the economic backdrop to get any easier, but we’ve started our new financial year in line with expectations and are confident of delivering another record year.”