Blurring the on and offline worlds further

From humble beginnings back in 2002, ASOS, formerly known as As Seen On Screen have become quite the powerhouse in the online fashion world. One person I spoke to about this remarked that it was like the Heat magazine of fashion, always on the pulse of celebrity culture and reasonably inexpensive. I thought ASOS was a bit bigger than Heat as an entity but it was a good analogy. They are, I believe, the largest independent online fashion and beauty retailer. It fits though with the similar type of target, aimed primarily at fashion forward 16-34 year olds, the site attracts approx 5.3 million unique visitors a month with over 2 million registered users.

Here’s a perhaps unknown fact for you, the company was started by the great-grandson of the founder of the one time major UK high street tailor chain Austin Reed. An early indication even, that it was going to be sticking around!

What got me thinking about all this was the eye catching advert in the London Paper tonight (6th July) and the transition from being strictly online only to now doing a few things offline too. The bright colours and really stand out typography meant that you literally couldn’t miss it. I wondered whether ASOS had done something like this before in print or whether it was a first? Apart from their own magazine, I don’t think I’ve seen many other offline print initiatives, granted I may have missed them!

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Why now? Well, it would seem that heavy high street discounting and unemployment among younger shoppers is likely to slow the meteoric growth of ASOS according to a recent Retail Week article. “Job insecurity has to be a worry and I suspect that people are holding back.” said the Chief Executive, Nick Robertson.

“Clearly much tougher comparables are being faced and there is now some evidence to suggest that the rate of growth in online sales has begun to moderate.” he continued. Is that the honey moon period over then? Looks like that dreaded R word is only now starting to bite with ASOS, impressive going.

One thing I didn’t know was that they recently secured brands such as Mango and Gap to sell online, rapidly diversifying further along with adding maternity clothes, childrenswear and limited run collections. When the chief exec said back in 2007 that he wanted ASOS to be the Amazon of the fashion world, he looks to be getting his wish and predicting the future with a consummate skill that only Mystic Meg could be proud of.

I wonder, if they ramped up their print productions and went on an assault against your weekly/monthly celeb fashion titles, would things turn full circle and start to cannibalise the Heat’s of the world? Would it even be viable? Not sure they could keep up with the changing of trends if they were to produce the magazine any more frequently.

Will be interesting to see whether this is the start of a prolonged offline campaign to try and pique waning customer spending and if it has the required impact.