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Online fashion group Asos added three million customers in the past year, with annual profits jumping thanks to cost-cutting and buyers returning fewer items amid the pandemic.

It now has 23.4 million customers, with more than seven million in the UK, where it makes the bulk of profits. Worldwide sales were up 19%, and pre-tax profits 329% at £142.1m, driven partly by fewer returned goods. Asos is one of the few retailers that have benefitted from lockdown.

The company said in August it was expecting to see growth in profits and sales and these figures are at the higher end of the forecasts given then. It also said buying habits had changed to reflect lifestyle changes enforced by the pandemic, and its customers were buying less occasion-wear and more face products and leisurewear, fewer of which were likely to be returned.

Like other online players, Asos had struggled with large volumes of returns in the past and had even threatened to block serial returners in 2019.

However, its profit margin dipped slightly and it was cautious over the outlook for consumer demand as it said “economic prospects and lifestyles of 20-somethings remain disrupted” due to the coronavirus crisis.

Nick Beighton, chief executive of Asos, said: “After a record first half which saw us make progress in addressing the performance issues of the previous financial year, the second half will always be defined by our response to Covid-19.”

He added: “I am pleased by the improvements we have made this year but there is still more for us to do to continue our progress.

“Whilst life for our 20-something customers is unlikely to return to normal for quite some time, Asos will continue to engage, respond and adapt as one of the few truly global leaders in online fashion retail.”

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