Digital pioneer Nick Robertson co-founded Britain’s largest fashion e-tailer, ASOS, in 2000. The online juggernaut ships to over 160 countries and has seven country specific websites. Further multilingual platforms including Russian, Arabic and Mandarin are in development. The website’s 2012 revenue was £495 million (about $800 million) and Robertson has vowed to push sales past the £1 billion mark within the next 2 years.
Robertson founded ASOS under the name asseenonscreen.com. As the name suggests, the original business model focused on sourcing like or similar products worn by celebrities on television.
"We read a stat back in 1999 that when the programme Friends aired, NBC got 4,000 calls about some standard lamp in one of their apartments asking where it could be purchased. So that was the real idea behind the business." Soon however the company’s revenue streams indicated that fashion was what consumers wanted, and Robertson refocused the company on the basis of the figures.
Building Asos’ relationship with “the global population of twenty-somethings who love fashion” is one of the key pillars of Robertson’s strategy. “I employ a thousand twentysomethings in the building, who love their fashion, love their Internet, love their social media… all the energy is here. I’ve got the easiest strategy job in the world because I’m just delivering what they want.” Asos creates consumer content daily, allows customers to share with others through Fashion Finder and provides a customer market place for new and pre-worn fashion.
Under Robertson’s guidance Asos now stocks both its own fashion and beauty lines as well as brands including Michael Kors, See by Chloé, Dolce and Gabbana and Zadig & Voltaire. “[Our customer] is not loyal to anything, she has her favourites — some high street and some premium, some eBay and some second-hand — why wouldn’t we try to replicate that under one roof?”
Roberston intends Asos to be, “more than an online retailer, we want to be as synonymous to fashion for twenty somethings as Google is to search and Facebook it to social media. “
Roberston was awarded an OBE in 2011 for achievement in the world of fashion retailing.