If the defeatists and doom-mongers are to be believed, the triggering of Article 50 will be a proverbial bullet to the brain of many retailers.
For others, the aftermath of the Brexit vote has already proved to be something more akin to a shot in the arm, as the falling value of the pound boosts business overseas.
Yet for almost all retailers, “uncertainty” is the word that has taken prevalence in financial statements, as the Government continues to be far from transparent about its negotiations with the EU.
Very few have managed to shield themselves from the resulting swirl of macroeconomic insecurity, but Asos perhaps offers an example for others to follow.
Asos’s success story
The fashion etailer is expected to report further sales and profit progression, both domestically and overseas, when it unveils half-year results on Tuesday.
Admittedly, being a pureplay may well make Asos’s transition to life outside the EU easier than it will be for those with sizeable store estates and larger cost bases.
“Asos offers other lessons aplenty for its retail rivals to weather the turbulent landscape, evidenced by the growth in its share price from 4,964p at the end of 2016 to 5,976p at the start of the week”
But the opportunity is there even for those that do. At Next, for example, international online sales were among the brighter sparks in the full-year results it posted last week, while sluggish performance in-store dragged on earnings.
Asos offers other lessons aplenty for its retail rivals to weather the turbulent landscape, evidenced by the growth in its share price from 4,964p at the end of 2016 to 5,976p at the start of the week.
“We understand our customers, what inspires them and what interests them,” the etailer boasted in its last full-year results presentation.
“We reach out to them by producing great content, which makes us much more than just a place to shop.”
They are bold statements, but ones it persistently backs up.
Asos is arguably the best content creator in retail, certainly in the fashion sector.
Its customer engagement strategy drove a 22% jump in online visits and a 30% spike in order numbers in the year to August 31, 2016.
That translated into growing sales and profits – a trend that will continue at its interims, when pre-tax profits should come in around £26.5m. Overseas, Asos’s international sales climbed 25% to £799.9m.
Unique selling point
Asos’s uniqueness of proposition has also been central to its ongoing success.
Close to two-thirds of its product mix is exclusive to the business but it continues to innovate that range, keeping its customers coming back for more.
“From Manchester to Malaysia, Newcastle to the Netherlands, the Asos customer demographic is nigh on identical in the 140-plus countries it ships to, meaning its proposition can be successfully replicated across borders”
Perhaps the most important pillar of Asos’s global success, though, is the way it has identified a celebrity-driven, trend-hungry customer that is mirrored across markets.
From Manchester to Malaysia, Newcastle to the Netherlands, the Asos customer demographic is nigh on identical in the 140-plus countries it ships to, meaning its proposition can be successfully replicated across borders.
Far from being a threat, Brexit should be considered an opportunity for retailers to reassess their structures and strategies.
As Asos continues to invest effectively in product, infrastructure, content and digital marketing, retailers could do worse than look at the etailer in their search for a Brexit-proof silver bullet.