The Business on: Nick Robertson, Chief executive, Asos

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The Independent Online

The retailer who is defying the recession?

That's the one: while most retailers are whingeing on about their fears of a double dip, Mr Robertson's Asos just keeps on posting ever-larger profits – yesterday's first-half figures were 59 per cent up on last year.



So how does he do it?

It's the power of celebrity. Launched 10 years ago, Asos targets a fashion-conscious 18-to-34 market, selling them clobber that gives them the look of the celebrities they follow, only at rather more affordable prices.



A dedicated follower of fashion?

Not so much. The business idea was his, but Mr Robertson employs a team of buyers. Unlike other retail bosses, he is very rarely to be found checking out the rails of rivals. In fact, he professes to hate fashion.



Does he protest too much?

Maybe – retail is in his genes, after all. He's the great-grandson of Austin Reed, the founder of the menswear chain of the same name.



A family of retailers?

Not since Mr Reed's days, actually. Mr Robertson's dad was in advertising. But the entrepreneurial spirit is clearly strong: brother Nigel is an internet tycoon himself, having made millions out of businesses such as Freepages and Scoot. In fact, it was Nigel whose £1.4m investment helped to get the company started.



That must be worth a bit now?

It would be, but Mr Robertson's brother sold his investment after seeing it triple in value and moved on to the next thing. The brothers claim not to be competitive.



So has Asos always led such a charmed life?

Not exactly. In 2005, it was dubbed Britain's most unlucky company after its warehouse – and all its stock – was wiped out by the Buncefield oil depot explosion. Asos had the building next door, you see – it had to close down for six weeks to sort itself out.



Stressful. So what does our man do with his down time?

He's a season ticket holder at Chelsea and has a ski chalet in Méribel.

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