Asos profits skyrocket by 253% to £106m during lockdown

Asos profits skyrocket by 253% to £106m during lockdown while High Street stores were forced to close

  • Fashion giant’s pre-tax profits hit £106.4m in six months to the end of February 
  • Formal outfits out of fashion but sales of casual and sports clothes accelerated
  • Asos sales in the UK up 39%, compared with 18% in the EU and 16% in the US
  • Profit margins down driven by increased freight costs due to Covid-19 disruption

Asos today revealed its profits have rocketed by 253% as people shopped online during lockdown in increasing numbers, especially in the UK, with the biggest growth in casual and sports clothing.

The fashion giant’s revenues jumped 24% in the six months to the end of February to £1.98billion compared with the same period a year ago, while pre-tax profits soared to £106.4 million.

Sales in the UK, during the period that saw a second lockdown in England in November, the introduction of tiering and the subsequent current lockdowns in place throughout 2021, were particularly strong – up 39%, compared with growth of 18% in the EU and 16% in the US.    

Due to people being stuck at home sales of formal and outfits for social events remained low, but revenues in the ‘activewear’ and ‘casualwear’ categories have exploded upwards.

Asos added it has seen its active customer base increase to 24.9 million – up 1.5 million in the six-month period, although profit margins on products sold fell 200 basis points – or 2% – ‘driven by increased freight costs due to Covid-19 disruption, foreign exchange movements and continued ‘lockdown’ category product mix’, the company said.

Bosses said they also believed Asos benefitted to the tune of £48.5million from the Covid-19 pandemic, adding ‘a benefit which we expect to reverse once we see restrictions lifted on the hospitality and tourism sectors’.

But sales in ‘sassy and sexy’ outfits when people can go to pubs, bars and restaurants again will rise, Asos said. 

ASOS has continued its recent stellar spell with a surge in earnings and sales as further lockdown restrictions have kept its shoppers from returning to UK high streets

Anders Holch Povlsen is the fabulously wealthy owner of the international fashion business Bestseller and the biggest shareholder in ASOS, who bought Topshop in a cut-price £330million deal in February.

The Danish retail mogul, 48, worth £6.1billion but known for liking a whisky down the pub and driving a bashed up VW Golf, is Scotland’s richest man with around 220,000 acres of the Highlands under his control after he started buying up some of the country’s grandest estates 14 years ago.

As a result, the reclusive Dane has become Britain’s biggest private landowner, making Prince Charles, who owns a paltry 130,000 acres in the UK, look like a veritable pauper. 

Povlsen became enchanted with Scotland when one summer in the 1980s the young boy from Denmark went fly fishing in the Scottish Highlands with his parents and brother.

Some have called it the most expensive family holiday in history because three decades later he has spent £100million quietly turning himself into a real-life Monarch of the Glen.

With his wife Anne, 43, they have formed a ‘200-year vision’ for their estates, which involves rewilding the land. In the vision, Povlsen said he planned to pass the estate along to his four children and that they would continue his work.

But their dream was hit by tragedy when three of their four children were killed in the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka in 2018. Alfred, Alma and Agnes all died. Only their youngest daughter, Astrid, then ten, survived the attacks and the couple said that they remain ‘genuinely grateful’ that she is still alive.    

Danes Anders Holch Povlsen , 48, and Anne Storm Pedersen, pictured together, met when Anne began working in sales for Bestseller and have bough 11  Scottish estates making them biggest landowner in the UK

The couple had four children – Astrid, Agnes and Alfred (pictured in the days before they died) and Alma, who took the picture. Only Astrid survived the Sri Lankan bombings in 2018

Aldourie Castle is set within 500 acres of prime Scottish real estate near Loch Ness and is owned by Povlsen

The £7million tied island at Loch Eriboll on the northern tip of Sutherland was bought back in 2016

Lynaberack, tucked away in the Cairngorms, was one of Povlsen’s earliest purchases and cost him £5million

Mr Povlsen has bought 11 Scottish estates and they are said to be worth £120million – more than double what he is believed to have paid for the properties. But he has spent huge sums rewilding land and refurbishing properties

In an open letter posted after their deaths, Mr Povlsen and wife Anne Storm Pedersen wrote that the project will take longer than a lifetime to complete and so would be carried on by their children after they died.

He wrote: ‘From our home at Glenfeshie, both Anne and myself – our children and our parents too – have long enjoyed a deep connection with this magnificent landscape.

‘As the holdings have grown and our common vision for the work becomes ever clearer, we have incorporated the entirety of the project into a venture we call Wildland.

‘It’s a significant and lifelong commitment that we have made – not just for ourselves but for the Scottish people and Scottish nature too – a commitment which we believe in deeply’. 

He began building this ever-growing property portfolio 14 years ago, in the autumn of 2006, with the £7.9 million acquisition of Glenfeshie, a 42,000-acre patch of the Cairngorms National Park.

Two years later, he spent another £15.5 million acquiring the 23,000-acre Braeroy estate near Fort William, nearby Tulloch, and Lynaberack in the Cairngorms. Four estates were added between 2011 and 2015, and another three in 2016.   

His Scottish landholdings cover an area half the size of Worcestershire, and surpassed the mere 217,000 acres owned by the Duke of Buccleuch – Britain’s biggest land owner before him. 

Partial to a single malt and locally brewed real ale, he is known to visit local pubs in Scotland but rarely says much about himself. 

Mr Povlsen’s life as a Scottish laird is all a long way from the tiny Danish town of Brande, with a population of just 7,000, where Povlsen’s father, Troels, opened the family’s first clothes store in 1975. 

Other outlets soon followed. And Anders was only 27 when Troels made him the sole owner of Bestseller.

By 2007, it was so successful that supermodel Gisele Bundchen was hired to promote it.

Bestseller employs 15,000 people and boasts nearly 6,000 shops. He owns brands such as Jack & Jones and Vero Moda, and 27 per cent of, Britain’s biggest internet fashion retailer. 

Today it bought Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT from the ashes of Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia.

In addition to ‘re-wilding’, the billionaire has poured millions of pounds into converting lodges, cottages and farmhouses into upmarket holiday retreats on his estates.

This has largely been the job of Anne, a willowy brunette with a passion for interior design. In dozens of buildings across the 11 estates, she has torn down the fusty tartan curtains of traditional Highland properties and created fashionable, modern rooms which look like they belong in an IKEA catalogue.

For £300 a night, members of the public can stay in the resulting homes, some of which are run as small hotels by the couple’s firm, Wildland Ltd. 

In a rare interview with The Times Anne said the style of her holiday destinations is epitomised by ‘a lack of clutter. You can’t relax if you are surrounded by stuff’.

According to Wildland’s accounts in 2018, the estates are worth £115million combined.

By a quirk of Danish law, they represent a nice earner for the country’s exchequer, since it charges tax on all land owned, anywhere in the world, by its citizens. Each year, Povlsen must write a cheque for upwards of £3million. 

During re-wilding work a human skull and other bones dating back 2,500 years were unearthed by workmen on one of his Scottish Highlands estates.

The partial skeleton, from the Iron Age, was discovered by builders on the tycoon’s 18,000-acre Eriboll Estate, in Sutherland. 

He bought the Eriboll estate from the late James Clark – son of famous Conservative politician Alan Clark – in 2016.

Popular locally and a colourful character, Mr Clark also inherited his father’s bluntness.

When a group of uninvited fishermen parked their cars on his estate, Mr Clark brought out a digger and, around the anglers’ vehicles, dug a moat that they had to fill in before they could leave.

During the lambing season, he hung the carcasses of knocked-down lambs from road signs to demonstrate the effects of excessive speed. On one occasion Clark refused to sell a house on the estate in case it fell into the hands of an English person.   

Mr Povlsen, left with his wife Anne, outlined his plans to hand over his estates to his children as part of a ‘200 year plan’ to ‘rewild’ his Scottish estates by reintroducing lost habitats and bringing back wild animals that have long gone extinct there. But tragedy struck when three were killed in a terror attack (their children pictured right)

Povlesen’s first buy was Glenfeshie, whose 42,000 acres inspired Sir Edwin Landseer’s Monarch of the Glen

Povlsen bought Killie Huntley estate in 2011 and rents out the vast farmhouse to holidaymakers 

Coastal retreat: The Kinloch estate, by the Kyle of Sutherland estuary, offers 20,000 of hunting and salmon fishing

Wild hunt: The 19,500 acre Gaick estate in the Cairngorms is accessible only by off-road vehicle

The Ben Loyal lodge and estate were snapped up by Povlsen back in 2012 which makes up 24,000 acres

In 1998 the Povlsens were targeted by extortionist Kurt Hansen, who threatened to kill family members if he didn’t receive £1 million.

Hansen, then 34, sent the Povlsens letters, scratched his initials into cars and eventually broke into the family home and left a note a few yards from where they slept.

When he was arrested, he had handcuffs, tape, flammable liquids and a handgun in his possession.

In his home, officers found disguises, a book on poisoning and a secret room under the floorboards.

Then, in 2003, a close family friend was kidnapped in India — where Bestseller has factories — by a gang that mistook him for one of the Povlsens, and was rescued only after a car chase. A discreet 24-hour security team keeps the family safe.  

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