The online and catalogue retailer Shop Direct, with brands including Littlewoods.com and Very.co.uk, has turned a profit for the first time in a decade.
The company, owned by the billionaire brothers Frederick and David Barclay, said the turnaround was just the start of a long-term strategy to mine data it has collected on customers over 80 years of business.
Its chief executive, Alex Baldock, said: "We should know our typical customer – female, 25 to 45, who is not affluent and is British – better than anyone else because we have a wealth of catalogue data that high street retailers don't have." It will be used over the next three years "to tailor and target our customers".
Sales were up 1 per cent to £1.69bn, with Very.co.uk and isme.com up a combined 18 per cent, though Littlewoods.com and KandCo.com fell 7 per cent. Pre-tax profits hit £6.6m from a £57.7m loss last year. Digital sales were strong, but nearly one in five sales are still via catalogues.