Asos chief executive Nick Robertson told delegates attending Drapers Fashion Summit 2012 that fashion retail is in a “phoney time” with retailers transitioning to embrace the digital age.
Robertson warned that businesses including his own have some work to do to capitalise on the mobile channel.
The Asos chief exec said retailers are getting better at servicing customers online, and that service providers such as logistics companies are increasingly helping retailers by improving delivery times and efficiency. He added this will help digital fashion sales further, which he forecasts could reach 60-70% of the total spend on fashion in ten years time.
He said: “You could say [that] is catastrophic for the high street, but it’s not about the high street or mobile, it’s about how customers shop and what they want and retailers have to keep evolving.”
He added: “We just have too many bloody shops, every street you walk down it’s full of them and there’s only so many shops that customers can go to. It’s unfortunate for businesses that have shops, and leases and debt and all the rest, but let’s be realistic about this, we need to shrink considerably the number of stores. We need to get much better where people are – which is online – and then we’ll be in a different place.”
Robertson said that with the likes of Facebook and Ebay really “nailing” the mobile experience, consumers in their 20s or younger are now able to do everything they want to do on their mobiles, whereas in the past they would have had to revert to a bigger screen.
“We’ve got to figure out how can we capitalise on that. It is scary just how quickly that experience has grown in the last couple of years. The challenge we’ve all got now is that if they’re spending 40% of their day on their mobile phone how do you get to [capitalise on] that. If they’re on their mobile phone they’re not in your shop and they’re not on my website.”
Asos, he admitted, has some catching up to do. “I don’t think we are ahead. We’re there, we’re playing. Interestingly I’m only English speaking at the moment, so in Australia, the US, we’re on fire. France, Germany I’m losing out now. My .de website is not growing as quickly as it would have been had we had the mobile to complement it. “