CEO: ‘Asos is ending the dominance of high street brands’

Asos CEO Nick Robertson believes ecommerce will reduce the dominance of huge brands, levelling the playing field and allowing smaller labels to compete on an equal footing within the fashion market.

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Speaking on the Marketing Society’s Creativity for Commerce conference in London today (21 November), Robertson said that the significance of high street stores, which have been once a large asset for outlets, is at the decline as shoppers increasingly head online.

“High street stores used to secure retailers x amount of sales. But now eyeballs aren’t taking place the high street as frequently and they’re going surfing . i will put a brand like River Island on Asos and that i can put a brand like Needle and Threat, that nobody has heard of, next to them.

“In the customer’s mind the asset that made the emblem big, the high street, isn’t there anymore. That’s great news for smaller fashion labels, not so excellent news for enormous brands and their dominance will begin to reduce.”

Nevertheless, Asos is raring to court the large retail brands, with Robertson claiming that his site can open up a brand new international market to British retailers.

“London is an awesome hotbed of young fast fashion. What ASOS has done is take what the united kingdom is brilliant at, young fast fashion, put all those brands together in a single place, like putting a roof over Oxford Street after which exported it.

“We are helping fashion brands go international at zero cost to them. A brand like River Island, that’s phenomenally successful over here but has no business outside the united kingdom, they arrive with us, and suddenly they’re getting revenues from places they’d never has been ready to get to as a high street retailer,” he said.

One brand that Asos doesn’t have on board is Primark. The high street retailer undertook a really limited trial with Asos earlier in June, but ended it just three months later, insisting it had no further plans to transport into ecommerce.

Robertson suggested the trial wasn’t successful as the two companies couldn’t make the venture profitable.

“We trialled with Primark. We tried to make it work [but] with a free shipping model in the event that they only buy an item from Primark from us we’re probably losing money. We’re attempting to earn money within the process so it only works in the event that they buy something from Primark and two other things in order that the basket is three things. Then we will be able to pretty much do it,” he said.

Robertson also ruled out Asos ever opening a physical store, calling the move “counterintuitive”. He said 30 per cent of the site’s traffic already comes from mobile and its customers buy as much as 80 per cent in their fast fashion online.

The firm does have a presence within the physical world, however, publishing a monthly magazine showcasing the most recent fashion trends and types written by fashion journalists. Robertson said the magazine happened as the best way to take advantage of marketing to symbolize Asos and what the emblem stands for.

“The first pound of selling a web business goes into delivery and returns and we spend £100m a year on making that free. The second one pound goes into how best to symbolize Asos. So we use content: our emails, the trend magazine, the mobile app.

“The convergence between retail and media, here is it. The business model for magazines that was advertising revenues is now clothes sales.”