The Business On... Nick Robertson, founder and chief executive, Asos
James Moore is the Independent's Associate Business Editor and writes the Outlook City comment column from Tuesday to Friday. He also has a keen interest in disability issues and when not attempting to further injure himself playing wheelchair basketball.
Friday 04 November 2011
Still the poster boy for online retailing?
Pretty much. Mr Robertson admitted yesterday that the UK market was "challenging". But there are still millions of 16- to 34-year-olds he thinks he can tempt, and international sales have soared by 150 per cent. He has good reason for feeling confident.
It's in the blood, isn't it?
He is scion of a wealthy and famous family, being the great-grandson of Austin Reed, who gave his name to the suit-seller. At first it seemed he wouldn't amount to much. Educated at the independent Canford School in Dorset, he managed no better than a D at A-level and spent some time as a "ski bum" at Meribel in France. It's fair to say he's turned it round.
And he hasn't had it all his own way?
Asos has been through its ups and down – an explosion at the Buncefield fuel depot in Hertfordshire a few years ago damaged his only warehouse, leaving millions of pounds of stock unsellable. It helps when you can call on the likes of Sir Philip Green, who sent his loss adjuster round to help deal with the insurers.
Will he keep Asos?
That's the big question. Bid rumours abound, and the Danish retailer Bestseller has a big stake in the Asos business. The City would look incredibly stupid if it sold, given the level of growth that Asos has experienced (it now makes 58 per cent of its sales overseas), but then the City's reputation for anything resembling intelligence has taken a knock. Asos could go if the price were high enough.
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