Shop Direct didn’t just paint a portrait of its Christmas trading performance today, but a shape of things to come in the wider retail landscape.

The pure-play business grew sales 9% in the seven weeks to December 23, as visits to its websites surged 20% to 97 million.

It provided a further illustration, not that one was needed, of the industry’s shifting dynamics.

Technology is rapidly growing in terms of its importance and prevalence in the shopping journey, while ecommerce platforms are stealing share from bricks-and-mortar counterparts.

And with such trends only set to accelerate, Shop Direct’s boss Alex Baldock laid down the gauntlet to its retail rivals today.

“Artificial intelligence-fuelled technology like chatbots and virtual reality have the potential to leave bricks and mortar behind in offering the best personal service,” he declared.

“We believe it’s the next big shift in retail and financial services, and we plan to be at the vanguard.”

Baldock’s vision of using AI to match the service levels given in stores will serve as a warning to high street businesses, pricking the balloon of their first rise in festive footfall in five years.

Also today, Hobbs and H&M joined the list of retailers reporting positive Christmas sales, although the latter missed analysts’ expectations despite a 6% rise in December revenues.

Quote of the day 

“The ultimate aim is for every customer to have their own expert personal shopper and service assistant. We want to match the quality and intimacy of service that is the preserve of the rich who go to Bond Street.” 

– Alex Baldock, Shop Direct

Today in numbers


The number of Pep&Co concessions that will open in Poundland stores over the next 100 days.


The increase in Hobbs’ like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to December 31.

Tomorrow’s agenda

With a number of Christmas trading updates still to come, Hotel Chocolat takes centre stage tomorrow as it provides its first festive update since listing on AIM. 

Luke Tugby, deputy news editor

Alex Baldock will be on stage at Retail Week Live, the UK’s premier festival of retail and consumer commerce, taking place in London on March 8-9, 2017. The event attracts over 1,200 retail chiefs and leading business personalities who gather to experience the unique combination of networking, inspiring content, strategic thinking and innovation. To book your ticket visit: