Online fashion retailer Asos expects annual pre-tax profit to be at the top end of expectations after a sales surge driven by purchases of casual and active wear during the coronavirus lockdown.
Group sales in the four months to June 30 rose to £1.01 billion (€1.1bn-$1.3bn) from £919.8 million in the same period a year ago, with retail sales up by 10 percent to £983.3 million (€1,085.2m-$1,237.9m). The firm’s active customer base rose by 16 percent year-on-year to 23 million, with particularly strong growth of new international customers.
U.K. retail sales slipped by 1 percent to £329.2 million (€363.3m-$414.4m) and U.S. sales were down 2 percent to £124.9 million (€137.8m-$157.2m) on a constant currency basis. International sales climbed by 17 percent to £654.1 million (€721.9m-$823.3m).
Sales fell by up to a quarter when the lockdown was imposed in March, but improved steadily, reflecting increasing warehouse capacity and an underlying improvement in demand. The retailer added that it will also repay cash received from the U.K. government’s furlough scheme.
“This performance was supported by good new customer acquisition, strong growth in ’lockdown’ product categories - casualwear, activewear, face and body - an overall improvement in underlying demand and beneficial returns behaviours showing more deliberate purchasing,” the company said.
Asos said that while it refocused its product mix in an attempt to deliver these products, demand for key ”lockdown” category items outstripped supply as sales grew by 50%. This came at the expense of a decline in sales in “occasion-led” categories, including dresses and formalwear, as workers stayed home and restaurants, clubs and bars were shuttered.
Chief executive Nick Beighton said Asos had “learned a lot and adapted quickly”.
“While we remain cautious about the consumer impact of Covid-19 looking forward, we are on track to deliver strong year-on-year profit growth and to return to positive free cashflow for the full year,” he said.
Beighton said Asos’ “rigourous” approach, including adjusting its intake profile, means it does not foresee a material inventory risk or write-off requirement relating to Covid-19.
The trading statement came out as it emerged that Asos had axed contracts with several clothing suppliers after uncovering poor working conditions. Rivals Boohoo and Quiz have become embroiled in a scandal over suppliers paying workers below minimum wage rates. According to a 2018 report leaked to The Telegraph newspaper, Asos’ inspectors found major ethical breaches at almost a quarter of suppliers visited in 16 countries, including seven sites in the U.K.