Recent figures from Asos have sharpened the focus on the internet as a key to retailing’s globalising future.
Retail Week Knowledge Bank’s latest update of its Asos profile shows international sales nearly doubling to £63m in 2009/10 alone. Moreover, they rose by 120% in the first half of 2010/11 to £49m, 37% of the group total, with the likelihood of overtaking UK sales in 2011.
Particularly telling is the detail revealed by Asos about the planning for its international surge - the requisite build up of management, the physical infrastructure and systems, the increase from serving 34 to 167 countries, and the launch of a dedicated US website, followed
this month by French and German versions. Physical retailers, even the sharpest franchisees, could not open sites at anything like such a pace, of course. Then there were further details from Asos, like retaining distribution from the tried and tested UK operation for the time being, while opening a massive new facility in 2011, but creating free, in-country returns systems in these key, new markets, also in weeks.
At the same time, ever-expanding ranges and new marketing initiatives are intended to sustain domestic market momentum, too, with group sales planned to reach an ambitious £1bn in 2015, against £223m in 2009/10.
Will Asos succeed in maintaining the international momentum? And what will be the main lesson? It is simple at one level - it is all in the execution, not just the planning, whatever the channel. Retailing is littered with those that have ‘got it wrong’ internationally, misreading the market details, especially in North America, but also Asia. But they can also learn the lessons, return and make it work. Asos, so far, looks like getting it right first off.