• FY pre-tax loss narrowed to GBP7.8m
  • Total sales up 5.5% to GBP1.94bn
  • Online business rose 8.5% 

Shop Direct Group, the UK's largest catalogue and online retailer and operator of the Littlewoods, Very and Isme businesses, has warned the year ahead is likely to be "tough," despite seeing higher sales last year.

That said, it hopes to grow through international expansion, with the phased launch of very.com online in the US and 47 other countries starting next month, and the roll-out of very.co.uk and littlewoods.com web platforms for mobile shopping.

"Whilst the current retail environment is difficult, online retail is still in growth and with our breadth of product and leading brands we believe we are well placed to weather the storm," said chief executive Mark Newton-Jones.

Trading highlights included an 8.5% rise in its online business, which now accounts for 70% of all items ordered. The retailer also said mobile internet sales account for 5% of sales and that this is expected to rise to double-digits in 2013.

The company also said it has made progress in a tough year, with total sales excluding VAT up 5.5% to GBP1.94bn (US$3.06bn) in the year to 30 June, up from GBP1.84bn last time. It also narrowed its pre-tax loss to GBP7.8m from GBP21m.

However, Newton-Jones warned: "Since the year-end we have seen a marked slowdown in consumer confidence and spending.

"We don't believe the environment will become any easier in the foreseeable future and, as such, we are budgeting for a tough year ahead whilst continuing to invest in areas for future growth."