Bottom Line: A global web player that is best of British

Marc Sidwell
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ANYONE who said there was no space in the internet retail revolution for British business may have to start eating their words. On the heels of Ocado’s return to form thanks to a licensing deal with Morrisons comes this startling set of numbers from Asos. They confirm the online fashion retailer’s extraordinary achievement. In little more than a decade, it has become a worldwide phenomenon.

Look at the latest numbers: two-thirds of sales are from outside the UK, with Russia and China still to come on-stream. Solid performance in the notoriously hard-to-crack American market is impressive enough. But the European figures are if anything even more admirable. Expanding in the Eurozone sounds like a recipe for disaster these days: for more traditional clothes firms, it probably would be. In the fourth quarter, Asos’s EU sales grew 73 per cent year-on-year. Over the whole year, they grew 51 per cent.

Asos, it seems, is not doing anything like anyone else. While it dips a toe into the potential of emerging markets, it has built a model that can work well even in Europe’s debt-submerged markets.

That model is brilliantly digital-first. Disruptive pricing and fast access to the latest looks are the core of the business, but that is supported by a social-media-driven fashion finder and neat technical flourishes like the Virtusize fitting technology. Asos is a firm without high street baggage, and it has played to that strength superbly. We need more UK innovators like this.