The Barclay brothers, the owners of the Daily Telegraph newspaper, have blamed a big investment in online for another year of hefty losses at their Shop Direct, the group behind the Littlewoods, isme and Very brands.
Shop Direct suffered a £46m hit to its bottom line from costs, including redundancy payments to about 400 staff, ramping up spending on its internet operation and closing a warehouse.
This resulted in the home shopping group, owned by Sir Frederick and Sir David Barclay since 2002, posting a pre-tax loss of £57.7m for the 12 months to 30 June, although this was a 37 per cent improvement on the previous year.
On Christmas trading, Shop Direct's chief executive, Alex Baldock, said: "We are cautiously optimistic we will at least match last year's strong performance.
"For the second year in a row, we expect tablet computers to be among our best-selling performers."
Sales inched up by 0.4 per cent to £1.67bn in the year to June. Boosted by booming sales from mobile devices such as iPhones, Shop Direct said online now accounted for 80 per cent of total revenues against 64 per cent two years ago.
It added that its Littlewoods fashion collection from the celebrity Myleene Klass – ranging from jackets and coats to lingerie – had become its "fast-ever selling celebrity range".