Online giant Shop Direct notched up a 5% increase in total sales, excluding VAT,  for the six weeks to December 31.

The parent company of Littlewoods and Very saw strong margin growth which it said was ahead of sales growth. Over 70% of sales were carried out online over the period, with the channel showing double-digit growth.

Shop Direct chief executive Mark Newton-Jones said: “This is another strong peak trading performance for Shop Direct demonstrating the increasing confidence customers have to do more of their Christmas shopping online.”

The group said it had an early start to the Christmas period with the first week of December a record trading week for the business.  The busiest shopping day of the period was December 6, known as Cyber Monday, when orders peaked at over 8,000 an hour.

The Very brand delivered an “exceptional performance” over the trading period with sales up 36% and new customers up 40%.

Across the group clothing and footwear saw double-digit growth, driven by the season’s cold weather. It said partywear also performed well with the red pencil dress by Holly Willoughby emerging as the must-have item of the season, notching up 250,000 sales.

Toys and games consoles were also big-sellers. The online retailer delivered over one million toys and reported 20% growth in games consoles driven by the Xbox Kinect.

Shop Direct saw total sales over Christmas Day and Boxing Day up 10% against last year and reported stock clearance rates are ahead of last year.

Last week, Shop Direct launched a new brand, Isme, designed for the fashion-conscious mature customer.