Digital pioneer Nick Robertson co-founded Britain’s largest fashion e-tailer, Asos, in 2000 with Andrew Regan and Quentin Griffiths. The online juggernaut ships to over 200 countries and stocks over 1000 brands, as well as having more than 19.2 million active users. The website’s 2018 revenue was north of £2.3 billion. In 2015, Robertson stepped down as CEO, replaced by former COO Nick Beighton.
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” was 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, provides a customer marketplace for new and pre-worn fashion and has 22.7 million social media followers.
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 & 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 was awarded an OBE in 2011 for achievement in the world of fashion retailing.