Asos to mark return to selling after warehouse fire with huge summer sale

Online clothing retailer taking orders again but says about 20% of stock damaged in suspected arson attack at Barnsley site

Asos is launching a massive summer sale on Tuesday as it seeks to woo back customers affected by the fire in its main warehouse at the weekend.

The online fashion retailer is offering discounts of up to 50% as it resumes taking orders after the blaze forced the closure of its website for two days.

The company estimated the effects of the fire and the sprinkler system at the site in Barnsley had damaged about 20% of the stock held there. Friday night's fire tore through several floors of the giant distribution centre, which holds 70% of Asos's £159m of stock, valued at cost price.

The fire raised fears that the company could be out of operation for a long time. Every product Asos sells is checked at the warehouse before it is shipped. Last year the group had sales of £770m.

In a statement to the stock exchange on Monday, Asos said: "None of the technology, automation or structure of the building has been affected by the fire.

"The clean-up process commenced on Saturday morning and progressed quickly. Consequently at 2am this morning we recommenced taking orders. We are fully insured for loss of stock and business interruption."

The better-than-expected news saw the shares close up more than 2% at £28.15.

Detectives from South Yorkshire police believe the fire was started deliberately and have launched a criminal inquiry.

The fire comes at a difficult time for Asos which has fallen from stock market grace after issuing two profit alerts in the past six months. The second, less than three weeks ago, warned annual profits would be less than expected due to a perfect storm caused by the strengthening pound and heavy discounting.

That statement wiped almost a third off the company's stock market value and short sellers, who try to cash in on a fall in a company's share price, are now thought to be targeting Asos. Around 5% of the retailer's shares are now out on loan compared with 1.4% – the usual level for a listed company – at the start of this month.


Sean Farrell and Zoe Wood

The GuardianTramp

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