Online retailer Shop Direct has posted record sales and profits for a fifth consecutive year as mobile phone sales skyrocket.
In the year to July 1, the retailer saw underlying pre-tax profits jump 10.2 per cent to £160.4 million while revenues also rose 14.6 per cent to £1.26 billion. Its gross margin came in at 40.8 per cent.
Like-for-like sales rose 5.6 per cent to £1.9 billion during the same period, with 69 per cent of overall sales being made via mobile devices.
Smartphones sales accounted for 53 per cent of the total sales, marking the first time in the company‘s history where they represented the majority.
Thirty-two per cent of mobile sales were made through the retailer‘s Very app, and Shop Direct have announced plans to launch an AI chatbot service within the app capable of answering over 32 different customer queries and recognising over 4000 written phrases.
The group‘s credit arm saw a 7.6 per cent rise in customers, rising to 14.1 per cent at Very, and it is set to unveil a new financial services platform next year after a three-year investment programme.
“We‘re pleased to report our fifth successive year of record sales and underlying profits. Once again, Very and m-commerce were the big drivers of our growth,” chief executive Alex Baldock said.
“Our fashion performance stood out in a volatile market as we brought even more famous brands within reach of our customers.
“Spotting the athleisure trend early boosted sportswear, and V by Very became an £150m brand in its first full year.
“Artificial intelligence is already driving results for us and we‘ll soon launch one of UK retail‘s first AI-powered chatbots for customer service. Longer term, we believe AI will bring scale to personalisation so digital retailers like us can be every bit as personal as stores.
“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.”