ASOS maintains heady rate of sales growth

LONDON Tue Dec 11, 2012 7:42am GMT

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LONDON (Reuters) - British online fashion retailer ASOS (ASOS.L) maintained a heady rate of sales growth in its first quarter, buoyed by strong trading both in its home market and overseas.

The retailer, which targets young women looking to emulate the designer looks of celebrities like Nicole Scherzinger, Tulisa Contostavlos and Cheryl Cole, said on Tuesday its retail sales rose 30 percent to 165.8 million pounds in the three months to November 30.

That compares with analysts' forecasts of about 29 percent and growth of 31 percent in the fourth quarter of the previous financial year, and reflects a 35 percent rise in active customers to 5.4 million from 160 countries.

ASOS, whose celebrity fans include United States First Lady Michelle Obama, said its retail gross margin fell 100 basis points year-on-year, reflecting a strong comparative period, the UK accounting for a larger percentage of total sales than initially planned and price cuts.

"We remain positive in our outlook and continue to trade in line with expectations," said Chief Executive Nick Robertson.

First-quarter retail sales in Britain rose 24 percent to 62.1 million pounds, while international sales increased 34 percent to 103.7 million pounds and now represent 63 percent of total sales.

With Britain facing the prospect of a triple dip recession, many retailers have been finding the going tough as consumers fret over job security and a squeeze on incomes.

ASOS, with its broad international reach, has bucked the gloom.

Its shares have risen 82 percent over the last year, hitting a record 2,571 pence in October.

The stock closed at 2,484 pence on Monday, valuing the business at 2.05 billion pounds.

(Reporting by James Davey; editing by Kate Holton)

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