Cyber weekend helps Asos to biggest ever trading week

The CEO of online fashion retailer Asos, Nick Robertson, said on Tuesday that the recent 'Cyber weekend' helped his business to its record week of trading.

Starting with Black Friday on 28 November and continuing through to what was dubbed Cyber Monday, coinciding with what for many consumers is the last pay day before Christmas, a number of retailers saw significant uplifts in store and web traffic as they enticed shoppers with an array of discounts.

For Asos, the fillip to its sales followed a period of investment in technology and supply chain systems. The record trading figures will also be welcomed by Asos after a summer fire at its Barnsley warehouse cost the company around £30 million in lost sales.

Asos's UK sales for the three months to 30 November totalled £104.8 million, which was up 24% year on year. Overall retail sales for the period were £246.3 million, with Asos saying that international trading conditions remained challenging.

"September and October were challenging as we completed the automation programme in Barnsley in time for peak," Robertson explained.

"Our sales have since gathered momentum and we had our biggest ever trading week over cyber weekend in November […] We have commenced investment into our international pricing and have started to roll out our zonal pricing capability, which combined will help us to address our international performance.

"We continue to focus on our major investment programmes, upgrading our IT platform and investing in our logistics capability."

The CEO also noted that this most recent quarter saw Asos receive £6.3 million of insurance proceeds related to the fire at Barnsley, which the company is using to to accelerate its investment in international pricing. Full-year profits are expected to be in line with expectations.

Over the last couple of weeks it has emerged that Asos was not the only retailer to experience a boost to sales over the cyber weekend.

Department store chain John Lewis and online fashion retailer Missguided are among the other industry players to have reported record sales due to the upturn in web traffic and transactions stimulated by a number of discounts and special offers.

John Lewis reported a record week of trading, with £179.1 million in sales generated during the week to 29 November, while Missguided said Black Friday itself generated over £1 million in sales, and the whole weekend saw a year-on-year trading lift of 180%.

Despite the short-term boost to some retailers' top lines, there are some concerns that UK consumers will come to expect discounts every November, meaning businesses will have to absorb the consequent hit to margins.

Professor Chris Edger, retail expert from Birmingham City University, said that evidence from the US – where Black Friday originated as a post-Thanksgiving shopping event – suggests annual discounting "will become a vampire retail squid" spreading out throughout November and "sucking margin".