Very Group achieves record annual sales, driven by new customer levels

Liverpool online retailer the Very Group reported record annual sales today, for the year to July 3, 2021.

The group, which was previously Littlewoods, said retail sales were up 24.9% to £1.535.6bn, driving 13% group revenue growth to a record £2.317.1bn.

Very customers increased 12.4% to 3.82m, boosting group customers by 7.6% to 4.82 million.

Group profit before tax of £81.7m, up 68.8% on the prior year, reflected increased Very retail sales and improved cost management, it said.

Underlying bad debt expense was 1.5% lower at 6.1% of the average debtor book, and the group announced a closing cash balance of £78.1m (FY20: £206.4m), reflecting the £119.4m final settlement of customer redress payments, with no further material increase in provisions expected.

The group finished the year in strong financial health, with underlying operating cash flow of £245m.

Very said it had achieved significant customer experience improvements including its AI-powered chatbot, Very Assistant, which now handles 268,000 queries monthly after being added to the Very website, making it Very’s largest customer service channel.

It also extended order cut off for next day delivery from 7pm to the industry-leading time of 10pm.

App sales were up 45% year-on-year, boosted by a more personalised, intuitive app experience, and the group said it has improved colleague experience with the launch of a hybrid working model and transformed office spaces to promote collaboration and community.

The group also strengthened its executive team with the appointment of former BBC technology director, Matt Grest, as chief information officer and Robbie Feather, former CEO of Fenwick, set to join the business as retail managing director in late 2021.

Sales growth was achieved across all Very categories, demonstrating strength of multi-category strategy, it said.

Electrical were up by 38.9%, driven by flagship releases in gaming (+65.5%) and double-digit growth in all sub-categories. Home improved by 26.7%, including home accessories (+27.9%), textiles (+27.0%) and furniture (+33.1%), driven by beds (+43.9%).

Fashion and sport sales rose by 11.6%, with particular growth in children’s, women’s and men’s sportswear (+67.7%, +50.1% and +24.3%, respectivel.

Celebrity and designer clothing was 69.5% ahead, including Michelle Keegan (+25%).

Chief executive, Henry Birch, said: “I am pleased to report outstanding group performance, including record revenue, continued profit growth and strong cashflow generation.

“Whether working remotely, educating and entertaining the kids, updating their homes or simply wanting to look and feel good, we’ve given millions of families the items they need via an extensive range of flexible payment products.

“We’ve done this while 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 added: “I am most proud, however, of our colleagues. Through their dedication, adaptability and ingenuity, they consistently delivered for our customers while adjusting to new ways of working, with many facing personal tests.

“The current environment is not 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.”