Australia leads soaring international sales at Asos

Asos has laid bare the breadth and pace of its international growth by revealing that Australia has become its second biggest market in the last two months.

The online fashion retailer said Australia had leapfrogged the US in terms of overall sales, as the group delivered another sharp rise in annual profits and sales.

Asos, which has 3.2 million active customers from 160 countries, is to launch local websites in Australia, Italy and Spain this financial year, adding to its UK, US, French and German sites. Nick Robertson, the chief executive of Asos, said: "Australia has been going great guns."

He also said that launching in China was a matter of "when, not if" but said such a move would be done through a partner and did not provide a timeframe.

For the year to 31 March, Asos increased pre-tax profits, before exceptional items, by 41 per cent to £28.7m, on retail sales up by 58 per cent to £324m. Its international arm grew by 142 per cent to £140m to account for 43 per cent of total sales over the year. However, overseas rocketed to more than half of group sales in the fourth quarter.

Asos said its new 530,000 square foot warehouse in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, would be fully operational in the next week and when "fully racked" will have a sales capacity of £1.2bn. Mr Robertson said the transition to the new warehouse from those in Hemel Hempstead had gone smoothly, adding: "It has not disrupted us the way it could have." He said the "huge investment" made in the new facility had all been out of its cash flow.

But the investment in the new warehouse resulted in a £12.9m exceptional charge over the year. This meant the online retailer's actual pre-tax profit fell by 23 per cent to £15.7m.

Asos grew UK retail sales by 25 per cent to £184.1m. Mr Robertson said: "Online is not suffering the same fate as the high street." But trading had been "slower" during the weeks of hot weather and bank holidays in April, as its core UK customers of 16- to 34-year-olds went out more.