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PEAK 2017 Top500 retailers Asos, WH Smith and Hotel Chocolat update on Christmas trading

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Top500 retailers from Asos to Hotel Chocolat with their latest updates on Christmas trading.

Asos: strong sales as more customers bought more often

Asos this week reported strong sales over the peak trading period, with overall group sales up by 30%.

Total retail sales at the fast fashion retailer, a Leading trader in IRUK Top500 research, reached £790.4m in the four months to December 31, 30% up on the same time last year. Within that, UK sales of £300.9m were 23% up on last time, with still stronger sales rises in the US (+24%), EU (+42%) and rest of the world (+34%).

Asos said the fast growth in retail sales was down to its “unique and differentiated product and proposition”. More active customers (+19%) spent more (average basket value +3%) and more often (average order frequency +8%). Overall, 20.2m orders were placed in total during the period, 30% up on last time. Its UK performance, it said, represented acceleration in a challenging market.

Chief executive Nick Beighton said: “I’m pleased to report a strong performance during the period including peak. We achieved an exceptional performance in the UK, whilst momentum in international sales continued. We acquired 2.6m active customers year on year and saw encouraging movements across all key customer KPIs.

“Velocity in our technology programmes continued, with a record number of releases. Our customer proposition was further enhanced in the UK with the launch of Try Before You Buy and ASOS Instant, our same-day delivery proposition.

“Following this strong start to the year, we remain confident in our full year guidance and delivery of our planned investments in infrastructure to support our global ambitions.”

Commenting on the figures, Pini Yakuel, founder and CEO of customer relationship experts Optimove, said: “Their smooth returns policy has enabled Asos to steamroller many other brands and build a hugely loyal customer base. Although many retailers assume that customers who return orders are a costly pain, we’ve uncovered the dramatic impact that returns have on customer loyalty.

“Customers who return even just a single order are far more likely to come back and shop with that brand again. New customers who return at least one order in their first three months are 67% more likely than customers who haven’t returned anything to come back and make another order in the next six months.

“The prominence of online brands in the retail mix is shifting the battlegrounds on which retailers will win or lose customers. Attitudes towards returns are a key shift that brands like Asos are making in consumers’ mentality.”

WH Smith : flat and falling sales on the high street, but growing sales in airports

The Top50 retailer of stationery and books reported flat sales in the 20 weeks to January 20, with like-for-like sales down by 1%. It said its airport stores, and other parts of its travel business, had seen strong sales growth of 7% (3% LFL) as more passengers visited stores over Christmas. High street sales fell by 5% (-4% LFL), in line with expectations.

Group chief executive Stephen Clarke said: “The group has delivered another good performance over the 20 week period with total sales flat year on year and like-for-like sales down 1%, against a very successful period last year.

“Our Travel business now accounts for almost two thirds of the group’s annual profit and we continue to deliver strong sales growth across all our key channels.”

Hotel Chocolat: growth across channels

Hotel Chocolat , a Top100 retailer in IRUK Top500 research, said its sales grew across its sales channels, from the store to the website, and via wholesale, in its Christmas quarter.

Group revenue grew by 15% in the 13 weeks to December 31.

Angus Thirlwell, co-founder and chief executive, said: “We performed well, our new store openings contributed 6% of our growth in the period, with the balance of the growth coming from existing stores, digital and wholesale channels.

“Constant innovation saw our largest ever seasonal range in Christmas 2017 and we maintained strong availability of products to capitalise on the last-minute rush, without any excess stock overhang.

“Highlights included a successful cocoa beauty launch, with a strong story behind it; rooted in our Caribbean eco-hotel and plantation. The launch of Supermilk Pure, our first-ever no-added-sugar milk chocolate, was also very successful and resonated strongly with customers seeking wellness and authenticity without compromise.”

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