Asos to tap China's fashionistas with new website
U.K. online clothing retailer Asos has launched a standalone Chinese website in a bid to tap into the fashion-hungry consumers in the world's second-largest economy.
Asos.cn joins seven other country-specific sites and aims to offer 6,000 of its own-brand products by spring 2014 across womenswear and menswear and then gradually roll out higher-end labels such as Ted Baker.
Nick Robertson, Asos chief executive, said the website will help "break down existing barriers" for Chinese consumers.
The website launch, which will cost up to £6 million this year ($9.6 million), follows earnings in September that showed Asos's sales soared 47 percent compared with the same time last year, driven by "dedicated websites and in-country teams", according to Robertson.
Asos's tactics follow a trend of retailers looking to tap into new markets through websites tailored to the country's culture.
"With a local website you are able to tailor the offer and that is important for a retailer even one like Asos, because the nuances are different. What is popular in the West might not be popular in China," Neil Saunders, retail analyst at Conlumino, told CNBC.
Asos's take on the fashion business model means it will appeal to a young, fashion conscious Chinese audience according to analysts.
"There are a lot of young people interested in fashion in China and it is an obvious place to go," said Alice Enders, senior media analysts at Enders Analysis. "Its importance lies in the fact it is successful in making fashion clothing at low prices to a very fashion conscious but low budget type of customer base. It has proven that it can do fashion successfully addressing that segment and that segment exists in other markets too."
The pricing on the site will be in Chinese yuan, while editorial content and newsletters will be distributed to drive traffic on Chinese social media such as Sina Weibo.
Asos' move into China comes as online fashion retailer Koovs, which is headed by former Asos Chairman Lord Waheed Alli, is set to take his new Indian fast fashion business public. While parallels between Asos and Koovs have been drawn by analysts, the Indian-specific website demonstrates the broader trend for localised retailing online. However, there are risks attached to this plan.
"What works in one country won't work in another," Ian Mitchell, head of fashion at Kantar World Panel told CNBC.
"I would expect brands to be looking at other countries, and they will be looking for any angle that will give them opportunity in those countries. But there is no guarantee of success just because you are successful on your home turf."
—By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal: Follow him on Twitter @ArjunKharpal