The worst-kept secret in fashion retail was finally confirmed this week.
So far Kate Bostock’s appointment as executive director of product and trading at Asos has been met positively.
Bostock’s years of experience in the spotlight at Marks & Spencer are likely to serve her well as Asos looks to navigate a potentially challenging period when it hits its difficult teenage years next June.
Those speaking to Drapers about her appointment said Bostock brings “credibility”, “experience” and “gravitas” to a business that has grown rapidly and may need a steady hand on the tiller for inevitable storms ahead.
Even the cloud she left M&S under - with the high street giant posting its worst results for four years on the day it confirmed her departure - appears to have lifted, with analysts asserting her long-standing reputation will override any negativity from her time towards the end.
Asos chief executive Nick Robertson himself acknowledged the need for greater “retail disciplines” at the etailer and Bostock should be well placed to usher in this more mature era.
But there are still questions about whether she is right for the role and just what her position within Asos will be. Although Bostock denies this, speculation was rife that she was interested in the chief executive role at M&S before Marc Bolland’s appointment. So if running a business was attractive to Bostock, the move to a lesser role at Asos is curious, and leaves her reporting into yet another chief executive who could override her decisions.
In addition, the working culture of a fast-moving etailer will be vastly different to a predominantly bricks-and-mortar business 10-times its age, and the challenges that come with it will be equally diverse.
While Bostock is known for being a product supremo in mid-market womenswear, she’s not used to developing product or overseeing the purchasing decisions of a team that buys almost exclusively for 20-somethings. On top of that, Bostock’s experience lies in buying in own label, so she’ll have to adjust to Asos’s different branded models. And then there’s M&S’s own womenswear collections which have, in the last few seasons, been met with disappointment from both critics and customers.
In a world where you are only as good as your last collection, the pressure is on and she has a lot to prove.But it’s not clear yet to what extent she’ll be involved in the nitty gritty of the product decisions, and given the size of Asos’s team it’s more likely her role will be more strategic. If that’s the case, she may well prove a canny hire.
With analysts holding their breath for the Asos bubble to burst, the appointment of someone experienced in managing clothing at a multibillion-pound international retailer is exactly what the etailer needs. Whether Bostock is the right candidate, however, remains to be seen.