Primark joins up with Asos after long ignoring online retailing boom

ABF's budget fashion chain says it will sell selection of its clothes in 'limited trial' with Asos in U-turn of previous policy

Just two months after ruling out a move online, the budget fashion chain Primark has announced a partnership to sell a selection of its clothes through Asos.

Primark said it had begun a "very limited trial" of 20 womenswear products, ranging from a £6 Airtex T-shirt to a £22 studded parka. A spokesman said the trial would give the company "some insight into online retailing".

The partnership with Asos comes after George Weston, chief executive of Primark's parent company, Associated British Foods (ABF), again ruled out Primark launching its own online operation. He said Primark would prefer customers to "keep toddling down to Oxford Street" rather than sit at home buying fashion online.

"It is enough for us to have great fashion in good locations at the right price. That simply works for us," he said in April, when the company reported a 24% increase in sales. "We don't have a problem that needs fixing."

The brand is likely to do well on Asos. When rival New Look launched on the online retailer's site last year, it swiftly became one of its top-selling labels.

Maureen Hinton, an analyst at Verdict Retail, tweeted: "Great coup for #ASOS to get #Primark online – think how much more traffic it will drive to its site! And [it] will widen #Primark's international audience even more."

The switch from the high street to online shopping is having a big impact on retailers. The internet now accounts for about a fifth of retail sales.

Shoppers are spending almost double the amount online they were a decade ago, according to research by The average monthly spend on internet shopping has gone up from £56 to £113 a month, and more than a third of respondents said they did most of their shopping online rather than on the high street.

The John Lewis store group said in April that its online trade topped £1bn a year and accounted for a quarter of sales. Tesco has all but halted plans for more big out-of-town stores and Marks & Spencer opened a vast new warehouse last month in an effort improve its online service.

Debenhams reported a 46% surge in internet trade in its most recent six months, while Next Directory sales rose nearly 9% in the spring at a time when sales in its high street stores were down nearly 2%. Fashion sales are one of the fastest-growing internet sectors.

Despite its new interest in the internet, Primark said its priority remained rolling out new stores across the UK and mainland Europe. The company has 257 stores across Europe, 161 of them in the UK. It recently agreed to move into France with a store opening in the Grand Littoral mall of Marseilles. A second store will follow in Dijon.

A spokesman for Asos said Primark had joined it "as part of our roundup of great British high street brands. With their unique take on the latest must-haves and newest trends, Primark fans can get their hands on their award-winning affordable fashion, from skinny jeans and denim to skater dresses and printed T-shirts."

Asos said Primark was part of the mix of brands "relevant to its 20-something target market". The online retailer reported a 37% increase in sales in the three months to the end of February.

Asos (an abbreviation of As Seen On Screen) was founded by Nick Robertson, a great-grandson of the suit-maker Austin Reed, in 2000 when he heard that 25,000 viewers had rung the producers of the TV show Friends, desperate to find out how they could buy some of the clothes featured.

ABF is due to update the City on trading next month, providing the first details about whether the Bangladesh factory collapse has affected sales.


Rupert Neate

The GuardianTramp

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