Very.co.uk generated sales of more than £1 billion for the first time as parent company Shop Direct announced a 44 per cent increase in profits before tax.

Liverpool-based Shop Direct grew underlying profit to £150.4 million as sales increased by 4.3 per cent to £1.86bn.

The 12-month period to June 30 represented its first full financial year as a pureplay digital retailer, having ceased catalogue production in January 2015.

The group, which also operates digital department stores VeryExclusive.co.uk, Littlewoods.com and LittlewoodsIreland.ie, saw an expansion in mobile transactions, which now make up 62 per cent of online sales.

That was realised on the back of new features such as push notifications and touch ID to its MyVery app, which is nearing a million downloads. Orders via smartphones increased by 46 per cent compared with 2015.

Shop Direct’s largest online department store Very.co.uk performed especially well, with close to 16 per cent sales growth.

“We’re happy to report a fourth consecutive year of sales and profit growth,” said Alex Baldock, CEO at Shop Direct.

“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.”

Shop Direct's head of data science and digital analytics Gael Decoudu spoke at BusinessCloud's Big Data conference this summer, while the firm has announced a slew of data-focused senior appointments.

Gael Decoudu

Gael Decoudu (Shop Direct)

It also opened a state-of-the-art facility containing a juice bar for its staff.

“This was the year our investments in technology really started to pay off. We’ve made big strides in m-commerce, Big Data and personalisation,” added Baldock.

“We believe that artificial intelligence can change the game for us in data and personalisation. We’re deploying it already and are serious about going much further.

“We continue to gain market share profitably, and are on course for another record year of sales and profit.”

The number of data scientist roles has rocketed as firms grasp the importance of Big Data.