Asos sales rise by 30 per cent

INTERNET fashion firm ASOS today said strong demand for party clothing helped drive a 30 per cent leap in Christmas and New Year sales.

However, the figure for the five weeks to January 3 was down on the 47 per cent improvement reported in November and comes after sales more than doubled in the same period a year earlier.

The retailer's UK arm saw sales rise by a quarter over the first 42 weeks of the financial year to date, while its burgeoning international business notched up 102 per cent growth.

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ASOS, which stands for As Seen on Screen, has slowed sales growth in the UK as it said the group's warehouse and systems would not have been able to cope with another doubling of sales.

The group added that the adverse weather before Christmas came as a "double edged sword", driving more snowed-in shoppers online, but making deliveries more difficult.

However, ASOS said there was no material impact either way.

Chief executive Nick Robertson said he was "pleased to report another excellent Christmas for ASOS" and confirmed the group was confident in the full year outcome.

ASOS is launching a US-specific website this year to meet increasing demand in America.

France, Germany, Ireland, Denmark and Sweden are also key overseas markets for the firm, which said international sales now make up a quarter of total turnover.

"The UK is still all to play for, but as a percentage of ASOS's overall business, international is growing very quickly," said Mr Robertson.

The group's television sponsorship of Next Top Model on Living starts tonight.

It also recently introduced free returns for customers in the UK and has been increasing the number of lines on offer on the site.

Shares in ASOS slipped 6 per cent today as analyst Matthew McEachran at Singer Capital Markets said the Christmas sales growth came in at the lower end of expectations.

Today's share price decline was also due to "the top line growth rate dipping slightly in the UK and in the absence of upward catalysts on forecasts", added Mr McEachran.

ASOS is expected to grow sales from 165 million in its last financial year to around 230 million this year.

The group launched in 2000 aimed at fashion-forward 16-34 year olds and now attracts more than 6.9 million visitors to its site each month.