Asos back in fashion after Buncefield fire

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Asos, the virtual fashion chain, revealed yesterday it had bounced back from a damaging fire at its main warehouse in December, as it unveiled a 42 per cent increase in sales for the year to the end of March.

Although the group revealed slightly lower-than-expected full-year profits of £1.6m, it said this was because of the fact that insurance payouts from the fire were being staggered. A final payment of £600,000, which the company had expected to be paid before the end of March, will now be paid over the coming months.

The warehouse was damaged after the fuel depot explosion at Buncefield in Hertfordshire just before Christmas, throwing the business into turmoil during what were the most important few weeks of its financial year. The shares were suspended and Asos was forced to stop trading for several weeks. It reopened for business in the middle of January.

The company's insurers agreed to make a full payout, covering the loss to profits and the loss of assets at the warehouse.

Commenting on yesterday's results, Nick Robertson, the chief executive, said: "I am pleased to report that despite not trading over the Christmas period following the Buncefield fuel depot explosion, which caused damage to our Hemel Hempstead warehouse, recorded a 42 per cent increase in sales ... for the year to 31 March.

"With the continued growth in online shopping and the increasing awareness and the popularity of Asos amongst its target market, I remain confident about the prospects for Asos and look forward to a strong year of growth."

Shareholders and analysts were encouraged by the news that sales since the end of March had grown even faster than anticipated. For the six weeks to 7 May, the company said sales had increased 74 per cent, adding it was confident of achieving another year of strong growth.

Analysts at Investec said they were predicting a 35 per cent increase in sales for the first half, as consumer confidence returns in the UK. They added that they also expect margins to grow considerably.

Shares in the company increased 0.5p on yesterday's news to 105.5p, giving the company a market value of £105m.