The Very Group – newly renamed from Shop Direct – has reported a boost to retail sales in the run up to Christmas. The retailer highlighted the part that offering a personalised customer experience played a part in delivering higher sales at its flagship retail brand, Very.co.uk.
The Very Group, which includes Very, a Top50 retailer in IRUK Top500 research, and Littlewoods, a Top100 retailer, said group retail sales grew by 2.5% in the seven weeks to December 27, compared to the same time last year, while group revenue stayed flat.
Sales at Very were up by 6.1% in the seven weeks to December 27, compared to the same time last year. The retail brand saw sales grow across all product categories, particularly fashion and sportswear (+9.6%) and electricals (+5.7%).
Very’s peak trading was characterised by its longest Black Friday promotional period ever, running from November 8 to December 4. During that time, traffic to the very.co.uk app and website were up by 18% compared to the same time last year. Sales via its app grew by 32.3%, year-on-year. While more customers bought for the first time, many did so via credit, with the number of new credit customers up by 22% on last time.
The sales growth came as the retailer focused on using data to offer a more personalised customer experience. It used real-time browsing data to personalise emails and push notifications to provide customers with the most relevant deal for them. It also tracked on-site shopping behaviour to send personalised emails to customers when deals on a product they had previously looked at became available. It monitored social media to find out what deals were being talked about in different geographical locations, reflecting those deals in its outdoor digital ads in those areas.
Henry Birch, group chief executive of The Very Group, said: “Our team worked tirelessly to give our four million customers an amazing Black Friday and Christmas. Following a relatively subdued autumn across the sector, I’m delighted with Very’s strong retail sales growth during the hugely competitive festive period.
“More than at any other time, our customers value being able to spread the cost on the brands they love at Christmas. This year we laid on the best and most relevant deals, made them easier to find than ever before through personalised experiences, and offered even greater flexibility for when and how they were delivered.
“We’ll continue this momentum in 2020 as The Very Group, with our rebrand the latest milestone in our company’s long history. We’ll continue to build the best possible place to work and, through data and technology-led innovation, help even more customers say yes when it really matters.”
The pureplay group said that 25% of parcels were delivered via its click and collect partner, CollectPlus, while 6.9m parcels were delivered via partners Yodel, Arrow XL and Royal Mail.
N Brown Group – the home shopping group and owner of brands from Simply Be and Ambrose Wilson – said that although its revenue from digital sales grew in the run-up to Christmas, overall revenues were down by 5%.
The group posted a 12.1% rise in sales for Simply Be – and a 13.1% rise in online sales – but although brands including JD Williams and Ambrose Wilson grew sales online, overall retail sales were down. Some 87% of N Brown Group’s product sales are now online, and the retailer is managing the decline of legacy brands sold through channels such as catalogue sales.
Simply Be, by contrast, benefitted as more digital traffic was driven through social media.
Chief executive Steve Johnson said the peak trading period had been encouraging. “Our expectations remain,” he said, “that the retail market will continue to be challenging and promotional, but we are focused on our clear strategy of delivering profitable digital growth.”
Simply Be is a Top50 retailer in IRUK Top500 research.
Moss Bros reported a fall in sales across its retail channels during the autumn and over Christmas – and said that it expects to make a £1m loss in its full financial year.
Its total sales fell by 3% in the 24 weeks to January 11 compared to the same time last year, with retail sales, which make up 92% of the group’s revenues, down by 1.6%. Almost 8% of sales come from hire sales which fell by 17.7% during the period.
Online sales were down by 0.4% and accounted for 17% of group sales during the period.
The retailer said it was, nonetheless, making good progress with its strategy of taking its brand upmarket while transforming the way it operates its formalwear marketplace. Over the 24 weeks, it aimed to sell its lines through at full price, resulting in less stock to clear in the sales period, and it said this had been successful, improving profit margins as a result. The retailer currently trades from 128 shops.
Moss Bros chief executive Brian Brick said: "We have seen more intensive discounting from our competitors and a materially lower level of footfall across the high streets and shopping centres of the UK. Despite this, we have resisted discounting pressures, facilitated by our careful buying plans which have meant that we are holding lower levels of terminal stock to clear. This has been particularly evident in our High Street stores where we were able to focus on delivering our core purpose of styling individuals for on form moments.
“We continue to deliver against our brand elevating customer value proposition of offering our customers the chance to "Make It Yours", whether they wish to hire, buy or customise their outfit using our Tailor Me service, which goes from strength to strength.”
He said the retailer expected the coming year to remain challenging until consumer confidence improves and the number of people visiting UK shops improves.
Moss Bros is a Top50 retailer in IRUK Top500 research.
Image courtesy of The Very Group