Demand from wannabes helps Asos post first profit

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The Independent Online

Asos, the internet fashion retailer, posted its first interim profit yesterday on the back of soaring demand for copycat celebrity clothing.

Asos, the internet fashion retailer, posted its first interim profit yesterday on the back of soaring demand for copycat celebrity clothing.

The company, which targets wannabe Kate Mosses or Jennifer Anistons, said its sales almost doubled in its first half as it attracted more customers to its website.

Asos.com, which stands for As seen on screen, was set up four years ago by Nick Robertson, the great-grandson of Austin Reed. Its fashions mimic outfits worn by celebrities, allowing its target 22-year-old shoppers to buy into the look on a low budget.

The group, which includes an entertainment marketing business, reported pre-tax profits of £126,000 for the six months to 30 September compared with losses of £283,000 during the previous period. Group sales rose 72 per cent to £4.7m.

To cope with the surge in demand, Mr Robertson said the group would need to find a bigger warehouse. The news unnerved investors, and shares in the company, which have rocketed from 4.75p earlier this year, fell 5.5p to 76.5p.

The company has one main warehouse, of just 10,000 sq ft, in Amersham, Buckinghamshire. To fillChristmas orders, it has temporarily doubled its space by taking on three warehouses in nearby Chesham. But Mr Robertson said he was looking for a 70,000 sq ft warehouse.

Richard Ratner, a retail analyst at Seymour Pierce, the company's broker, said there would be "additional costs" until a new site was found. "Despite the rating, the potential for growth is still very considerable," he said.

Asos, whose finance director is Jon Kamaluddin, said its registered website users had increased by 14 per cent since August to 419,000. It has almost tripled the number of its product lines over the past year to 1,300.

Mr Robertson, who recently toyed with launching a bid for Austin Reed, said: "The internet wave is getting bigger and bigger. Clothing is an ever-increasing shopping trend online, helped by the lure of eBay. We think Christmas will be an absolute stonker."

Asos.com offers celebrity-trend hunters a range of garments, jewellery and make-up associated with Sarah Jessica Parker, Kylie Minogue, Paris Hilton and Sienna Miller. However, the vast majority of outfits on offer are restricted to size 12 and below, ruling out most of the British public as potential shoppers, given that the average woman in Britain is size 14 to 16.

Mr Robertson said the group, which sources most of its products from UK manufacturers, hoped to introduce its own label "in sizes 6 to 16" next year.

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