Asos proves the consumer is out there

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The Independent Online

The online fashion store Asos spread some Christmas cheer for "e-tailers" yesterday as it reported a doubling in trade over the autumn period and said it was confident for the coming months.

Bucking the trend of the high street, Asos As Seen On Screen delivered an 83 per cent leap in revenues in the six months to 30 September and profits of 2.4m compared to 795,000 in the previous half. Sales in the nine weeks to 2 December were up 101 per cent.

Its chief executive, Nick Robertson, said: "Every pound we may be losing due to the credit squeeze we are winning back due to the migration to online shopping."

E-commerce sales are expected to increase by 42 per cent this Christmas, according to figures from the Interactive Media in Retail Group.

It is not just the growth in internet shopping that has powered Asos. Mr Robertson said the better-than-expected figures can also be explained by the fact that the business has gained momentum. "We are a lot bigger in terms of product offering," he said. Asos started out by making clothes similar to those worn by celebrities but has since diversified.

Andrew Wade, at Seymour Pierce, said the group continues to have a huge opportunity to grow its business "through expanding its product areas in luxury, shoes, petite, plus-sizes, designer, maternity, kids and discount".

He said: "Asos has matured as a business, and, should the consumer begin to turn away from the celebrity culture, we doubt the business would have too many problems shifting its focus away from this area."

And while online stores are set to boom in the run-up to Christmas, pubs, restaurants and nightclubs are also expected to benefit from the party season.

Consumers plan to spend 18 per cent more than last year on going out over the festive period, according to figures from Deloitte, the business advisory firm. Each person will spend 143 on average on celebrating with the sector set to benefit from 6.8bn in earnings, a 1bn increase on last year.

Glyn Bunting, at Deloitte, said: "Despite some concerns in the pubs and restaurant sector about loss of business when the smoking ban was introduced this summer, our research suggests the ban has encouraged, rather than deterred, consumers from eating out this Christmas. Despite some economic challenges, people expect to continue to eat out."

The Gift Card and Voucher Association is another seasonal beneficiary. Its members, who represent about half of the gift voucher sector, said sales surged 195 per cent between October and December, compared to the average of the first three quarters.

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