Liverpool’s Very Group grows sales 22%, hires chair

Liverpool-based online retail and financial services firm The Very Group said on Tuesday that its retail sales grew 21.9% for the seven weeks to December 24 against the same period in 2019.

The Very Group said retail sales declined 2.6% compared with the 2020 Christmas period when the UK was in lockdown.

The firm said electrical sales grew 28.2% on 2019, led by gaming, which soared 83.5% amid the ongoing popularity of consoles including PS5, Xbox Series X and Nintendo Switch.

The Very Group is owned by the billionaire Barclay family and operates online retail brands Very.co.uk and Littlewoods.com.

The company also said on Tuesday it has hired former Walmart executive Dirk Van den Berghe as non-executive chair.

The Very Group CEO Henry Birch said: “Very recorded outstanding double-digit growth compared with the pre-pandemic festive season in 2019, as our customers enjoyed a more ‘normal’ Christmas.

“They bought back into fashion, focused on wellness, got their hands on the latest consoles and doubled-down on Christmas decorations to make up for last year’s more muted celebrations.

“Our performance was supported by our strong supplier and delivery partner relationships and our highly automated fulfilment centre Skygate, which enabled us to consistently deliver for our customers throughout the period.

“While the next 12 months will no doubt bring challenges as we all continue to navigate life around Covid-19, the last two years have shown that our model, which combines multi-category digital retail with our Very Pay platform, is both highly resilient and highly relevant.

“We’re going into the new year with great momentum and are well-set to keep building on our success.”

New chair Dirk Van den Berghe is a former Walmart executive vice president and regional chief executive for Asia and global sourcing.

“In his most recent executive roles with Walmart, which he joined in 2014, Van den Berghe was responsible for Walmart’s business in Canada, China, India and Japan,” said The Very Group.

“He also oversaw Walmart Global Sourcing, a fully integrated supply chain that supports all Walmart’s divisions in the United States and international markets.

“During this period, Van den Berghe and his team were instrumental in realising Walmart’s investment in and partnership with JD.com, a leading e-commerce business in China, 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 $16bn investment in Flipkart, a leading e-commerce and mobile payments platform in India.

“Prior to joining Walmart, he held a range of senior roles in Asia and Europe at global retail business Ahold-Delhaize (then Belgium-headquartered Delhaize Group), including CEO of Delhaize-Le-Lion in Belgium, France and Luxemburg between 2011 and 2014, and a position on the group’s global executive committee.”

Van den Berghe is currently a non-executive director at Colruyt Group, a Belgium-based and Western Europe-focused retail and energy group. He has previously held board roles at JD.com and Flipkart Group.

A spokesperson for the Barclay family 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.”

CEO Birch said: “We are delighted to have someone of Dirk’s calibre and experience join our company as chair.

“Dirk has successfully transformed and grown some of the very best companies in ecommerce, marketplaces and payments, and we believe he will make a material difference in helping us achieve our growth aspirations.

“He is the perfect person to lead our board and assist with strategic options that we are considering over the coming year as we enter the next important phase of the group’s development.”

Van den Berghe said: “It is a privilege to become the chair of The Very Group.

“The business has transformed into a digital leader in the UK and Ireland, and is ideally positioned to benefit from increasing consumer demand for both online shopping and flexible payments.

“I look forward to working closely with the board to deliver profitable growth over the years ahead.”

About the Author

Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.