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British given more reasons to stay in

Strong numbers from etailer Asos and home-shopping group N Brown provide further evidence that the British consumer (and in the case of Asos a fair few international ones too) is increasingly gravitating towards shopping from the comfort of an arm/office chair.

Asos, which also finally confirmed its deal to launch Gap’s online store in the UK this autumn, delivered a trading update on Monday in which it revealed - yet again - that it had more than doubled its turnover to £165 million in the year ending March 31. Profits are also set to beat expectations.

At N Brown, sales in the year to February 28 were up more than 10% at £662.5m, while profits climbed 11.3% to £82.7m. Unsurprisingly, the company noted its younger and more fashionable brands showed the fastest growth at 23% over the year.

The reasons for the online boom are multiple and well known; convenience, choice, 24-hour opening, discretion, widespread availability of broadband, no parking or travel costs for instance. But we can now add to that the fact that as well as being made to feel guilty about going out and spending money, the British public is now being made to feel scared stiff about going out full stop.

I refer of course to the hysterical coverage of the swine flu “pandemic”, or so it has been dubbed, even though it only technically qualifies as an outbreak at this stage. I don’t wish of course to underestimate the risk and it is indeed a tragedy that people have died, but a bit of perspective wouldn’t go amiss before we talk ourselves into another slump to add to the one we’re already in.

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