Digital demand: Asos sales rose 36 per cent despite customers ditching trendy dresses in lockdownThe latest lockdown has finished off some of
Digital demand: Asos sales rose 36 per cent despite customers ditching trendy dresses in lockdown
The latest lockdown has finished off some of the UK’s most loved retail businesses but for others it has been a blessing in disguise.
While traditional retailers such as Marks & Spencer that rely on customers leaving the house have struggled, more nimble and digitally-focused rivals have thrived.
The divide was underlined as online fashion seller Asos, food deliverer Just Eat Takeaway and supermarket upstart Lidl revealed barnstorming results for the Christmas period.
Asos led the charge as customers flocked to its trendy website on their phones, leading to sales rising by 24 per cent to £1.36 billion in the four months to December 31. In the UK, sales were up by 36 per cent to £554.1 million. It expects more of the same in 2021 and has ramped up profit expectations. Many in the City had expected Asos to take a hit, as Christmas is traditionally when young women buy cocktail dresses and strappy heels.
Instead, it focused on pyjamas and T-shirts, which have been in hot demand as customers are forced to stay at home.
Richard Lim of Retail Economics said: ‘These are mightily impressive results in an extremely difficult part of the market. Lockdowns, fewer opportunities to mix socially and cancelled Christmas parties have decimated the demand for new outfits. ‘But what consumers did spend was focused towards casual wear and the retailer was well positioned to leverage this.’
Another winner was Just Eat as takeaway orders surged. The firm has a presence across Europe but it was the UK business that performed best, with orders up 58 per cent in the fourth quarter.
Food delivery groups have been a clear winner during the pandemic as restrictions have prevented restaurants, pubs and cafes from serving food on site. Analysts said that Just Eat shares, up 20 per cent over the past year, could push higher still.
Neil Wilson, analyst at Markets, said: ‘I still think people will go back to the pub and restaurants but many, particularly older consumers now have the confidence to order takeaways on apps which would never have happened without the pandemic. These companies have done well because ordering takeaway is actually an expensive way to eat.’
Brompton Bicycles is hiring like ‘flipping mad’ after the pandemic triggered a surge in demand for its folding bikes. Sales soared as people spent more time at home during lockdowns and families have been more active outdoors. With retailers such as Halfords reporting a boom, Will ButlerAdams, Brompton’s boss, said it had decided to expand by taking on 100 staff to boost its 500-strong workforce.
In the supermarket sector Lidl defied the gloom as customers boosted sales by 18 per cent. Other firms to post impressive results included the online fashion company Sosandar and trendy legging seller Sweaty Betty.
Sales at Sosandar, started by former fashion magazine editors Julie Lavington and Ali Hall in 2005, rose 6 per cent, boosted by celebs such as Amanda Holden wearing its ‘Sandy from Grease’-style leather trousers.
Sweaty Betty said those doing exercise outdoors flocked to buy £85 ‘bum-sculpting’ leggings with a reflective print to help them be seen when running in poor light. Chief executive Julia Straus said: ‘The world has been turned upside down, and we’ve focused on supporting our customers.’