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Record Christmas sales for as it uses automation in areas from fulfilment to the customer experience

Image courtesy of the Very Group sales rose by a quarter in what parent company Very Group says was the online department store’s best ever Christmas trading period. 

The pureplay department store, ranked Top50 in RXUK Top500 research, today reported a 25.2% rise in sales for the seven weeks up to and including December 25 as customer numbers increased by 25.5% – or more than 500,000 new customers – from the same time last year. Sales via its mobile app were 33% up on last year as shoppers bought electricals (+44.8%) and products for their homes (+46.2%).

During its extended Black Friday promotional period – which ran from November 6 to December 2 – Very saw sales rise by 25.8% and web traffic by 55%, making another record period.

Very’s parent company Very Group also owns RXUK Top100-ranked Littlewoods and group retail sales were 18.1% ahead over the peak trading period, while overall group revenues, including income from financial services, rose by 15.3% to more than £500m for the first time for the peak trading period. 

Henry Birch, chief executive of The Very Group, says: “We are delighted with Very’s outstanding performance, which shows UK families were more determined than ever to celebrate this Christmas, despite all the challenges of 2020. Because we sell everything our customers could possibly want except food, are online only and offer a range of payment options, we were perfectly placed to help a record number of people make the most of the festive period. 

“Christmas shopping started early at Very and our committed team worked tirelessly to deliver for our customers. Continued appetite for entertaining the family and home improvement during the pandemic resulted in strong growth across our electrical and home categories, in particular.” 

He adds: “While the economic picture remains unpredictable, we have strong momentum as we begin the year. I believe our resilient, flexible and proven business model, which is online, multicategory and offers customers flexible payment options, will continue to help us thrive in 2021.” 

Deploying automation

Very owner the Very Group has introduced automation into its business in areas from fulfilment to customer service and today reported on how that worked out in practice over Christmas. 

Very Group opened its new Skygate automated warehouse in March 2020, and says that this enabled it to process 3.9m orders over the seven week period, peaking at 265m a minute, as items move from the order being placed to despatch in half an hour. The fastest item was processed in 18 minutes. Over Christmas itself, it supported a final order cut off of 7pm on December 22. Altogether, 7.8m Very and Littlewoods parcels were delivered over the period.

It is also using machine-learning to answer straightforward customer service queries through its Very Assistant chatbot – available in the Very app – and more than 150,000 customers a week used the chatbot to ask their queries. Customer service contact reduced by 25% a year as a result, at a time when more than 500 members of customer care staff were working from home. 

Very also uses automation in its product recommendations, designed to be highly tailored and personalised to complement items already in customers’ baskets. It added targeted promotions to the Very app, including exclusive but relevant deals delivered via push notifications. And on Black Friday itself, Very customers saw deals wherever they landed, not just on the home page. “Relevant, targeted promotions were added to every product page, allowing customers to find the right products at the best price,” the retailer says in today’s trading update.


The retail group says it was well prepared for Brexit, and “has seen no significant operational impact as a result of the new UK-EU trading relationship”.

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