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The Very Group reports reports record sales in a year of automated warehousing and customer service

Image courtesy of The Very Group

Very and Littlewoods owner The Very Group has reported record revenue in a year that saw it use automation to answer more than a quarter of a million customer service queries a month, despatch orders in as little as 17 minutes, and push its last order time to 10pm. 

The retailer is using automation in areas of the business from fulfilment and returns to retail forecasting and customer service. Its Very Assistant chatbot, now available on its website as well as its app, grew to become its largest customer service channel. 

The update came as The Very Group revenue reached a record £2.3bn in the 53 weeks to July 3 2021, 13% higher than the previous year on a 53-week basis and 11.3% higher on a 52 week basis. Within that, retail sales of £1.5bn were 24.9% higher than a year earlier. Group pre-tax profits of £81.7m were 68.8% higher than the previous year, reflecting both increased sales and improved cost management. Customer numbers grew by 7.6% to 4.82m, including Very customers, which grew by 12.4% to 3.82m.

Henry Birch, chief executive of The Very Group, says the business has generated record revenue, and grown profits while serving customers in a year of remote working and home educating. “We’ve done this whilst moving our company forward operationally and strategically, from continuous digital customer experience improvements and developing our Very Pay platform to extending next-day delivery cut off thanks to our highly automated fulfilment centre.”

He adds: “The current environment is now without challenge but our pandemic experience has shown us that our multi-category offer, combining leading brands with our Very Pay platform, is relevant to an increasingly wide number of customers. We are in good shape to face any future uncertainty, and remain confident that we are well positioned to take advantage of a market and customer behaviour that is moving towards our model.”

Electricals grew by 38.9% during the year, especially thanks to new gaming (+65.5%) releases. Homewares grew more than a quarter (+26.7%), led by bed sales (+43.9%) within the furniture category (+33.1%). Fashion and sport (+11.6%) sales were driven by sportswear – whether for children (+67.7%), women (+50.1%) and men (+24.3%) – and celebrity and designer clothing (+69.5%). The retailer launched stockless fulfilment with both Adidas and Reebok, doubling the lines available from both by shipping direct to customers as well as from the Very Group fulfilment centre. 

Multichannel strategy: shift to automation

Very says its Very Assistant, a machine learning chatbot, is now its largest customer service channel, handling 268,000 queries a month since being added to the Very website – and resolving 75% of queries on the first contact. That meant inbound customer service contact fell by almost a quarter (23%) year-on-year. At the same time Very’s Trustpilot rating improved to ‘great’ with 75% of reviews in the year to mid-August 2021 rating it as excellent or great. 

App sales grew by 45% year-on-year – put down by Very to a more personalised app experience. Customer experience improvements helped to boost visits by 77%. The group says it is building a “forensic” customer database to offer more relevant, personalised and timely digital experiences. 

Very Group’s Skygate automated warehouse also helped it to extend its order cut off for next-day delivery from 7pm to what Very says is an industry leading 10pm. The East Midlands centre now handles clothing and footwear returns, enabling faster refunds and product that has been returned available for re-sale within half an hour of arriving. Since it was opened in March 2020, the centre has processed about 40.5m individual items for about 17.5m customer orders, with the fastest order processed and despatched within 17 minutes. Its record for most individual items packed in a single minute stands at 228. 

The retailer is now using more automation and machine learning  in retail forecasting to give more accurate stock predictions and make sure that stock is available. 


The Very Group has now switched all of its UK operations to renewable energy and is offsetting inbound logistics emissions with its partner Kuehne+Nagel. It has also launched an environment and social governance board, chaired by non-exeuctive director Jacqui Humphries, and joined the United Nation’s CFO Taskforce, which creates a market for investment into its sustainable development goals. 


New hires include former BBC technology director Matt Great as chief information officer, and former Fenwick chief executive Robbie Feather who will join as retail managing director later this year. The retailer has introduced hybrid working following pandemic lockdowns, and says its office space now encourages collaboration and community. 

The Very Group sells through three websites: Very and Littlewoods, both Top50 retailers in RXUK Top500 research, and LittlewoodsIreland

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