Asos plans Chinese invasion

Fast-growing fashion website unveils rising profits and plans for international expansion

Fashion website Asos said on Thursday it was plotting a move into China as it confirmed it was on track to hit an ambitious sales target of £1bn in four years' time.

"It is not a question of if but when," said its chief executive, Nick Robertson, of China, although he conceded the move could take several years to come to fruition.

He added: "We will need to have a partner because we can't do it independently." The company said it would provide more details in the autumn but it was likely its business partner would be Chinese.

Asos reported a 40% rise in underlying profits to £28.6m. The website, which is aimed at fashion-hungry twenty-somethings, has been growing at breakneck pace for the last decade, benefiting from the internet shopping boom as well as the youth of its shoppers. "Twenty-year-old girls are never going to stop buying fashion," said Robertson, although he added the retailer was keen to reduce its reliance on the UK – which now accounts for less than half its sales.

Robertson said the company wanted to be a "global fashion destination" rather than a UK shop, and he flagged up initiatives such as the Amazon-style "Asos Marketplace" and the "Asos Finder" which gives customers access to more brands: "If there is something going on on the internet in fashion we should be doing it," he said.

Total sales were up 52% at £339.7m in the year to 31 March. The UK was up 25% but international sales raced ahead by 142% on the back of website launches in the US, France and Germany. Robertson said the company had made a good start to the financial year as shoppers planned their wardrobe for the coming season of music festivals.

Shares in Asos, which have more than trebled over the last year thanks to stake-building by Danish supplier Bestseller, closed down more than 4% at £22.32. Arden Partners analyst Nick Bubb said the stock was "priced for perfection, even though it is hard to see what could go wrong".

The retailer said it would launch websites in Spain, Italy and Australia this year but Robertson also noted the importance of new channels such as its Facebook store and mobile phones. "Mobile is going to be huge," he said. "This is about the shopping experience coming to you ... that could be via apps, on your mobile, on Facebook." He said more than 7% of visitors to the website were already using their phones: "This is the next shift in terms of how we perceive shopping online."


Zoe Wood

The GuardianTramp

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