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ASOS: The Fashion Phenomenon of the 21st Century


ASOS - the British online fashion retailer that never goes out of style.

Who wouldn’t want to go shopping from the comfort of your living room? In just a few clicks you can get the latest clothing items delivered straight to your doorstep. That is exactly what 4 young lads had in mind at the turn of the millennium.

In 2000, as the internet was becoming more popular, 4 visioners gathered in London and decided to make the most out of it. Thus, Nick Robertson, Andrew Regan, Quentin Griffiths, and Deborah Thorpe created an online retailer primarily aimed at young adults, but their business expanded faster than they could have imagined.

Today, ASOS sells high-quality clothing and cosmetic items from over 850 brands. It even has its own line of clothing and accessories. All of these can be ordered online and shipped to any of the 196 countries in the world, with free shipping included as well.

Stick around how this small retailer-turned-fashion-giant rose to fame and became a British icon.

The Rise of Two Proteges

Nick Robertson is no stranger to clothing retailers. In fact, he is the great-grandson of Austin Reed, the founder of the famous suit retailer bearing the same name. Soon history would repeat itself when Nick would form a company of his own.

Nick Roberson was born in November 1967. Coming from a fairly affluent family, he had a chance to get a good education. Along with his brother Nigel, he attended one of the largest public schools in England, Canford School.

Starting from his early school days, Nick showed an ambition to do more. He also developed a rivalry with his brother, which would continue into their adulthood and professional lives. This rivalry would soon prove to be crucial for the success of ASOS.

Quentin Griffiths was an interesting child. Even though he wasn’t the model student you would expect, he got by and mostly did okay in school. However, what he lacked in academic exceptionalism, he made up for in his social skills.

Often being described as the life of the party, Quentin had a way of getting along with pretty much anybody. He was also somewhat of a people-pleaser, constantly trying to be on people’s good side.

Quentin’s social skills also allowed him to see how people react and what compels them. He had a gift of understanding people’s psyche and using that to gladden them and also get what he wanted, eventually.

The two were pretty much the perfect pairing to create ASOS.

As Luck Would Have It

Bith Nigel and Nick Robertson had entrepreneurship in their blood, which they inherited from their great-grandfather. So, it should come as no surprise that after Nigel formed Freepages, a telephone information group, Nick wanted to try his hand at starting a business as well.

In order to try and one-up his brother, in 1995, Nick formed a product placement company called Entertainment Marketing. However, he knew he couldn’t do this alone and decided to get someone to help him; that person was Quentin Griffiths.

After founding Entertainment Marketing, the duo worked with many big-name brands, like Pepsi and Ford. By working with these industry giants, Nick and Quentin learned a lot about marketing and how to connect with their audience. This would prove to be crucial in their future projects.

After a few short but successful years, the pair realized that they were really compatible with each other. They learned how to get along and play off each other's strengths and weaknesses. They later relied on their close bond and compatibility when collaborating in the future.

Soon afterward, they wanted to expand their business. No longer satisfied with simple product placement, they wanted to sell some of these items featured in the films and shows they worked on. In other words, they envisioned a one-stop-shop where you can buy many of the items as seen on screen.

From the Big Screens to Big Successes

In 1999’s London, our stars of the show started their second company together, aptly naming it AsSeenOnScreen. As the name would suggest, they initially focused on selling replicas from TV shows and movies. In fact, their very first products were a pestle and mortar used by Jamie Oliver, and a wallet featured in Pulp Fiction.

Soon afterward, the company started going by the acronym ASOS, and by 2003, it fully adopted the new, snappier name. ASOS started selling clothing featured in popular media at a relatively low price. This struck a chord with their young target audience, and their popularity went up.

Once Nick and Quentin started relishing in the success brought upon by the company’s innovative approach, ASOS was faced with fierce competition coming from companies like Alibaba, AllSaints, and Pretty Little Thing, among others.

Due to the company’s success, ASOS quickly started expanding. By 2004, when Nick and Quentin saw their first profits, they launched their first own-label range of womenswear. Starting in 2010, people from outside the UK became able to buy from ASOS for the first time, and soon afterward, the first international offices started opening.

Fast-forward to 2015, the company experienced a shakeup when Nick stepped down as CEO and was replaced by Nick Beighton. Fortunately, his successor brought new life into the brand as he recognized the potential social media marketing had.

Financing Fashion

Growth didn’t come easy for ASOS though, despite what you would assume. As their business model was set up to sell items seen on movies and TV shows, they didn’t profit much from sales. And the money they did earn, was invested back in marketing and improving the company’s offering and services.

It wasn’t until 2004, nearly 5 years after being formed until ASOS made its maiden profit of around £120,000. However, their strategy paid off, as they became more and more popular. Their story really proves that it’s not always about making quick money.

ASOS had its IPO on 29 August 2008. With that, the company’s stocks opened at £23.50 With its IPO, ASOS managed to raise £15.6M.

The company reports to ever-growing growth. For the year to end August 2021, they reported a pretax profit of over £193M. This is a 36% rise in yearly profits. And even though this can be attributed partly to the rise of online shopping in the wake of the COVID pandemic, it is undeniable that the future is looking bright for ASOS.

ASOS, Today

This London-based fashion and cosmetics retailer continues to expand from day to day. Starting from a small prop seller, it has become a staple of British culture. Today, the company proudly employs over 3,000 people in offices all around the world, all working towards making sure business is only growing.

A large contributor to ASOS’s success is its strive towards customer-first policies and accessible fashion. The company offers stress-free shopping and free worldwide shipping, with an intuitive website that lets customers track their orders. ASOS also collaborates with many celebrities organizations to promote its array of products.

As for the future, fan-favorite ASOS is continuing to expand its product palette, offering and developing its image as a young people’s company. It’s also investing in voice and visual search, as well as AI. ASOS seems to be really focused on getting technology to help the company serve its customers the best it can.

No matter where you find yourself in the world, you can always check out ASOS’s user-friendly website, opening the windows to the latest trendy outfits. You can even find all the cosmetics and toiletries you might need, all in one place!

So what do you say, shall we go shopping?