Littlewoods boss says mobile 'is where the action is'

Myleene Klass Image copyright Littlewoods
Image caption Singer Myleene Klass designs collections for Littlewoods

Freed from "the shackles of the catalogue", Littlewoods has benefitted from the move to online shopping and in particular on mobile phones.

The company's owner, Shop Direct, which also owns fashion website, has reported record profits.

It estimates that its customers - usually female - spend about four hours a day on their phones.

Chief executive Alex Baldock said smartphones are "where the action is for online".

Shop Direct is focusing much of its energy on its fashion brand Very, which targets the "female striver and aspirer, aged 25 to 45", many of whom shop online.

Given the stiff competition in this market, the company "effectively has a three second audition to stop her thumb from scrolling on", Mr Baldock told the BBC.

Once a stalwart of the High Street, Littlewoods sold its 119 stores in 2005 to focus on its catalogue and online business. The catalogue ceased production in January 2015 after 80 years in business.

In its first financial year as a purely online retailer, Shop Direct's pre-tax profit rose 44% to £150.4m with 62% of its transactions coming from mobiles.

Image copyright Shop Direct
Image caption saw sales increase by 13.9% compared with the previous year

In the company's results statement, Mr Baldock added: "2016 was our first full year as a pureplay etailer. Removing the shackles of the catalogue has been liberating, and has allowed us to invest in the areas that matter most to our customers - making their shopping experience easier and more personalised, particularly on mobile."

Four years ago, 72% of Littlewoods sales came from the catalogue and Mr Baldock said the company had been pretty successful at migrating customers across to online.

Retail analyst Kate Ormrod from Verdict Retail said: "Its investment in personalising the experience for shoppers via homepage content, customer emails and product recommendations has, and will continue to drive engagement and loyalty among its customer base."

But she added that Shop Direct must now consider how to better appeal to the lucrative mature consumer market.

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