AO's Roberts: It's been a year of trading like no other

Founder & CEO of electricals e-tailer AO.com, John Roberts, described the last six months of trading as “like no other during my two decades in the business”, as the company posted a 57% year-on-year rise in revenue.

In the six months to 30 September, AO’s UK business experienced a 54% increase in revenue and the German operation jumped by 83% on a constant currency basis.

The figures, which exclude sales derived from AO.nl, the company’s Netherlands website which was closed during the prior year, were swelled by a coronavirus pandemic-influenced rise in online sales and a subsequent shift to buying products for the home.

AO said it had benefited from retail stores’ rivals closing for a period of time due to the Covid-19 crisis, but said since shops have reopened there has been a “lasting step change in online penetration”.

Roberts said: “AO was in good shape coming into this financial year and the global, structural shift in customer behaviour to online, accelerated by Covid, emphasised our strengths.

"The progress that we've made in Germany gives us the platform and confidence to grow.  We remain excited by the opportunities ahead and ambitious to realise them.”

He added: "Whilst we remain mindful of the uncertain economic climate caused by the pandemic and Brexit, we are on track with plans and well set for our biggest ever peak trading period in the UK and Germany."

Illustrating the company’s growth, AO opened its third warehouse in four months earlier this month. The new site at G-Park in Stoke-on-Trent is the largest warehouse of the three, providing 275,000 sq ft of distribution space.

And this week AO announced it is to launch its first ever in-store ‘experience’ space, by creating a presence in a Tesco Extra in Middleton, Greater Manchester. Opening next week, the 2,088 sq ft space will feature an open kitchen area where customers can ask for help and advice, as well as digital displays, a TV wall and an ‘AO-To-Go’ section.