Back from the brink: ASOS

In December 2005, online fashion retailer Asos recorded record sales. As Christmas approached, things looked great, but then came the unexpected. How did Asos rebuild itself after Britain’s biggest explosion in 30 years? It relied on its core value of customer service.

Nick Robertson launched Asos in 2001. The business first recorded a profit in 2004 but it was the following year when things took off. Asos became the best performing stock in Britain and was generating £200,000 in sales every day. As orders flooded in, Nick Robertson, founder of the business, enjoyed an anniversary celebration with his wife.

He wasn’t expecting any phone calls, but the one he received gave him the chance to show why people rave about the Asos customer service.

An explosion at Buncefield fuel depot destroyed £5m worth of stock. Asos closed for six of the busiest weeks of the retail year. This would be the end of most business stories, but Asos, already known as an internet success story for starting up at the height of the dot com crash, fought back.

Nick acted fast. He instantly configured his website to cancel new orders and organise refunds. When disaster hit Asos, consumers were at the front of the business’ mind. Every customer was reimbursed.

That customer focus is why Asos survived. It would have been easy for customers, who had purchased Christmas presents for friends, partners or children, to turn against the brand. But, thanks to quick action, it kept its huge fan base happy.

And what was Nick’s reaction to being hit by the worst explosion in peace time Europe?

“I've been in worse situations. The business has been in worse situations. We had no money in the early days. At least we can afford to pay salaries. People have still got their jobs and the company is visibly a lot better off than it's ever been.”

“This is a blip. We will come back from this. I've got 750,000 customers on this database. Once the shop is open, we will throw a big party. We're going to tell everyone about it.”

And that’s what he did. Thanks to amazing customer service and preparation, what should have derailed the business became Asos motivation to strive for better.

In the eight years that followed, Asos has expanded into seven countries including USA and Australia, launched a magazine and diversified into menswear. Asos was a success story of the dot come crash, but now it’s also a success story of another disaster. It’s become the UK’s third largest online fashion retailer and made a £30.3m profit in 2012, showing the benefits of determination and faith in your business.

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