Jan 11, 2022
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Very Group sees strong Christmas trading, names new chair from Walmart

Jan 11, 2022

Online retail giant The Very Group had a good Christmas as fashion interest spiked, it said on Tuesday as it also announced the arrival of a new non-executive chair.

Very Group

The company said the seven weeks to December 24 saw retail sales rising 21.9% across the group compared to the pre-pandemic 2019 festive season.

Sales declined 2.6% compared to the 2020 season, but that was understandable. Lockdowns in that year had handed the e-tailer an advantage as non-essential physical stores were closed for part of the period and shoppers were extra cautious about visiting them even when they were allowed to open.

Overall group revenue, including Very Finance income, grew 11.5% on a two-year basis and fell 3.3% year-on-year.

Its four key product categories were all up in double-digits with fashion & sports rising 17.7%. It said it saw a “significant recovery” in this area. CEO Henry Birch said its customers enjoyed a more “normal” Christmas and “bought back into fashion”.

The performance was led by premium fashion that rose 44.6% on a two-year comparison, and by sports clothing and footwear that rose 25.4%.

Its ‘developing categories’ classification also increased sales by 12.2%, driven by beauty that was up 27.8% and personal care that surged 31.9%. The wellness trend that emerged at the outset of the pandemic showed “staying power”, it said.

Across categories, the top-selling items included Apple Airpods, Calvin Klein Eternity Moment Eau de Parfum, and River Island girls’ leggings.

The company has invested heavily in its fulfilment capability in recent years and said its fastest order of Christmas 2021 was processed and despatched in 18 minutes and 32 seconds by its automated fulfilment centre, Skygate, which ran on 100% renewable energy during a peak trading period for the first time. Its automated chatbot was also used by 137,000 customers a week and helped to reduce calls into its contact centre by 17% compared to 2020.

It added that in 2021, Very website visits increased 32.3% compared to 2019 while app visits rose 129.1%. App visits as a percentage of total Very visits reached 34% in 2021, up from 30.1% in 2020 and 19.6% in 2019. And app sales made up 40% of total sales this time, compared with 38.1% in 2020 and 32.2% in 2019.


Now to the new non-executive chair. Dirk Van den Berghe has been named to the post. He was formerly Walmart executive VP and regional chief executive for Asia and global sourcing. Very said that during his time at the US giant, he and his team were instrumental in realising its investment in and partnership with JD.com and in developing the joint venture between Seiyu, Walmart’s subsidiary in Japan, and Rakuten, the e-commerce market leader in Japan. They also realised Walmart’s $16 billion investment in India’s Flipkart.

Before joining Walmart, he held posts at Ahold-Delhaize, including CEO of Delhaize-Le-Lion in Belgium, France and Luxembourg between 2011 and 2014.

A spokesperson for the Barclay family that owns Very Group said: “We are delighted that Dirk will become chair of The Very Group. He has unrivalled leadership experience in the digital retail and payments industries, and his appointment represents a commitment to the long-term success of company.”

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