The Very Group - or Shop Direct as it was until 2020 - is the UK leader in what used to be called "home shopping", offering affordable private label fashion as well as a vast collection of third-party brands. Though it's best known for apparel, the group also sells a wide range of electrical goods, furniture and special seasonal items, as well as financial services. It has successfully transformed itself from an old-style catalogue mail order business into the country's second largest pureplay digital retailer after Amazon, delivering in excess of 50m items a year to 4.8m active customers. The original core of the business was Littlewoods Home Shopping, but this was later supplemented by several key acquisitions, including the former GUS mail order portfolio, and later the online operations of Woolworths in the UK. The group also launched two online-only brands. Very, introduced in 2009, was originally aimed at younger and more style-conscious buyers, while Isme, launched two years later, was aimed at fashion-conscious women in their 40s and 50s. Very quickly became the group's single biggest business. In 2015, all other banners were either closed or merged into Very and Littlewoods, and the group ceased production of all remaining catalogues to focus on digital-only sales. Revenues for the year to Jul 2021 topped £2.3bn for the first time, with profit before tax of £82m. Very alone accounted for over £1.5bn in sales and another £340m of interest on customer loans, while Littlewoods has shrunk steadily in recent years, falling to a total of £439m for the most recent year. Though best-known perhaps for fashion & sports (28% of sales in ye 2021), the biggest proportion of revenues by far (47%) came from electrical goods. Other lines included seasonal items (such as toys or outdoor lesiure) and funiture & homeware. Over 80% of all online sales were made by mobile. Henry Birch is CEO, but the business is privately owned by the secretive investors Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, and chaired by Sir David's son Aidan Barclay. The group also owns delivery networks Yodel and Arrow XL. Littlewoods was originally launched in 1932 as a catalogue shopping sideline to the sports betting (or "pools") business owned by the Moores family of Liverpool. High street stores followed a few years later. However, sales declined sharply after the 1980s as a result of competition from the likes of Next, and Littlewoods was sold in 2002 to the Barclay brothers, who had made their original fortune by investing in London property in the 1970s. They sold the retail estate (to Primark), and acquired the GUS home shopping division a year later. Their other major interests include London's Ritz Hotel and the Telegraph Media Group.
Capsule checked 19th October 2021
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Adbrands Daily Update 29th Mar 2021: "Our House 2021". Grey London has found the past couple of years extremely challenging in terms of both clients and leadership, so it's great to see that their creative instincts remain undimmed. Online retailer Very isn't usually considered the most exciting of clients but this new campaign - coinciding neatly with some fine weather and the loosening of lockdown restrictions - is pure joy throughout. A lovely idea, executed with perfection. It's a very British affair, so international viewers might need some explanation: Madness were one of the biggest local bands of the Eighties, and 'Our House' has deservedly become established as a modern classic. Grey launched a nationwide search for ordinary families to feature in this karaoke rendition, and then added in a few well-known local celebrities like pop star Sophie Ellis-Bextor, model and media personalty Kelly Brook and radio presenters Pandora and Dev Griffin. And of course that's Madness front man Suggs to kick the whole thing off. Fabulous.
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