Shop Direct Group, the UK's largest catalogue and online retailer and operator of the Littlewoods, Very and Isme businesses, has today (10 January) posted strong Christmas sales - but said it remains cautious in its outlook.

For the six weeks to 29 December, total sales excluding VAT were up 5% on the same period last year.

The company saw increasing demand for its own-brand fashion after it sold 140,000 own label dresses during the period, up 32% on the prior year. Margin rate, however, edged down 0.3% due to a shift in the product mix.

The week commencing 9 December was the busiest of the year, the group added.

Group CEO Alex Baldock said: "This Christmas was well ahead of last year against strong comparatives, demonstrating that our combination of great products, market-leading financial services and unique e-commerce capabilities is hitting the right note.

"Peak trading came later than ever, highlighting customers' growing trust in the online and mobile retail model and our ability to deliver."

Looking forward, the retailer expects sales to slow heading towards Easter and remain broadly flat for the year, Baldock emphasised.

"With consumer confidence remaining subdued, retailers will have to fight even harder to win market share.

"To ensure we remain a winner, we will continue to invest in delivering a great digital shopping experience for our millions of customers, whenever, wherever and however they choose to shop with us."