Primark is smart to chose Asos for online push

Elizabeth Fournier
FROM humble beginnings back in 2000, Asos has made a name for itself as one of the true online retail pioneers.

Launched thirteen years ago by entrepreneurs Nick Robertson – the great grandson of menswear legend Austin Reed – and Quentin Griffiths, Asos was originally known as As Seen On Screen, an online portal offering clothes “in the style of” consumers’ favourite celebrities.

Floated in late 2001, in the shadow of the crisis and at the bottom of the post-9/11 bear market, it shouldn’t have worked.

Critics expected a repeat of (the Swedish-backed site that swallowed $135m of funding and went bust in under a year) but by 2004 Asos had turned its first profit, and its Aim-listed shares ended the year as the most successful on the Stock Exchange.

Today it boasts a carefully curated mix of high-street and designer, all selected by Asos buyers and re-shot on the company’s own models. Its trendy, young customer can see the new Barbour jacket modelled by a good-looking peer – then buy the farmer’s favourite without having to trek to the nearest country outfitters.

For Primark, which has so far focused on its high-street presence over online sales, this is a logical first step. Fashionistas can pick selected bargains without stepping foot in one of its hectic flagships, and the firm gets an insight into how a foray into e-tailing might work.

For Asos too this seems like a clever move. Customers spend an average of £60.30 on the site, so an £8 Primark skirt is the perfect add-on sale – the online equivalent of the lipbalm or pack of gum that supermarkets place strategically next to the till. Primark’s throw-away trends may have a limited shelf life, but this has the hallmarks of a tie-up that will run and run.