and Littlewoods sales top £2bn for first time

The online retailer did not access the furlough scheme or loans from the Government during the pandemic

The owner of shopping websites and is back in the black after locked-down consumers snapped up Airpod headphones, Nintendo Switch consoles and video games, pushing sales past £2bn for the first time. 

The Very Group, which changed its name from Shop Direct earlier this year, now expects to return to pre-tax profits in the year to June 30 after a loss in 2019.

Underlying profits are expected to be between £255m and £270m, with revenues topping £2bn. 

Sales at rose by 36pc in the quarter to the end of June, as shoppers flocked online after non-essential stores were forced to shut. Overall group retail sales, including at clothing and homeware seller Littlewoods, rose by 28pc.

Chief executive Henry Birch said the websites attracted “masses of new customers” because they have “the right brands at the right price”.

Customers bought pillows, hair dye and TVs in lockdown. So far this week the company has sold more than £1m worth of fans and other cooling devices because of the heatwave, compared with £31,000 last year. 

The retailer secured £75m of equity in November from its ultimate owners, the Barclay family, who are also the proprietors of Telegraph Media Group, publisher of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, to help pay for a wave of last-minute payment protection insurance (PPI) claims totalling £150m.'s share of the UK non-food market grew by more than a percentage point in the fourth quarter, taking it to almost 3pc.

The group did not use the taxpayer-funded furlough scheme and did not seek support from any Government emergency loan programmes.

Finance chief Ben Fletcher said the business had a cash headroom of more than £200m. Mr Birch added he is “absolutely confident in our [financial] position”.