Asos CEO Nick Robertson: Bruised and burnt but fighting back

 
Kasmira Jefford
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Nick Robertson explains why the online retail giant is in bullish form
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, Nick Robertson de­clared yesterday. The Asos chief executive has had a tough year, riddled with profit warn­ings, a fire at its main warehouse, and slow­ing international sales that have left the firm’s shares badly bruised.
Until this year, Asos’ shares have enjoyed a meteoric rise, thanks to the online clothing giant’s appeal to fashion-hungry twentysomethings.
But Asos was knocked off its pedestal after a strong pound forced the company to cut prices overseas to revive flagging sales.
A major investment in its warehouses and the launch of a new business in China have also hit profits, while the fire at the Barnsley warehouse added to its woes.
But speaking after Asos’ full-year results yesterday, Robertson was keen to draw a line under last year’s setbacks. “We firmly believe this business has huge potential. Yes, this year has had a few operational challenges but that’s what happens in fast-moving, fast-growth sectors,” he said.
He also brushed off rumours of a takeover by a bigger online rival as being fuelled by speculators. He stated Amazon was “not its dream partner” and that Anders Holch Povlsen, who is indirectly its largest shareholder, was “in for the long term”.


Asos has been a hit with fashion-hungry twentysomethings

Asos said it remained firmly focused on reaching £2.5bn in sales in the coming years, which, together with Robertson’s bullish comments appeased investors and sent shares rallying 13.4 per cent yesterday.
The promotion of finance boss Nick Beighton to chief operating officer also cheered investors, who felt further support at the top was needed.

RESULTS AT A GLANCE

■ Profit before tax fell 14 per cent in line, with lowered forecasts to £46.9m
■ Revenue rose 27 per cent to £975.5m, with UK retail sales up 35 per cent
■ Sales are expected to rise 15-20 per cent this year, with profits unchanged
■ It has 8.8m customers, up 25 per cent
■ Asos is targeting £2.5bn of annual sales by around 2020

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