Shop Direct sales boosted by extended Black Friday deals

Sportswear and toys boosted Shop Direct’s sales after the retailer extended its offering for the much-hyped Black Friday discount event, but the company warned about the year ahead.

The group, which owns and, said sales were driven by growth from its Very brand after it rolled out its Black Friday campaign earlier than the previous year.

Chief executive Henry Birch said during the peak Christmas trading period the company put “more emphasis on December than ever before and saw encouraging growth in key departments like sportswear and toys”.

For the seven weeks ended December 28, sales increased 3.7% year on year.

Clothing and footwear sales were up 8% at group level and 16% at Very, thanks to a 23% increase in sports apparel for the group.

The retailer is owned by the billionaire Barclay brothers, David and Frederick, who also own the Daily Telegraph newspaper titles.

Shop Direct’s Christmas sales figures bucked the trend after some retailers recently, such as Marks & Spencer and John Lewis, said sales came under pressure amid tough conditions on the high street.

Retailers have been battling a number of headwinds, including low consumer confidence, high costs and changing shopping habits with more consumers buying more online.

Mr Birch said that, against a challenging retail backdrop, the company has “delivered a record Christmas period in terms of total revenue whilst maintaining retail margin rate in line with last year”.

However, he warned about 2019 as he expects trading conditions to remain challenging.

“Looking ahead to 2019, we’ll focus on continuing to play an important role in the lives of our customers – those who value our unique combination of leading brands and the flexibility to spread the cost of purchases.

“Given the potential impact of the political backdrop on consumer spending, we expect the year will be challenging for retailers. However, our peak trading performance gives us reason for cautious optimism.”