Nick Robertson, the man who started British online retailer Asos during the dot-com boom, survived the crash and went on to make it one of the leading online retailers in the fashion space, has stepped down after 15 years.
Another Nick at Asos — Nick Beighton — is taking over as CEO, effective immediately. Beighton joined the company as chief financial officer in April 2009 and added the role of chief operating officer in October of last year. It's a position for which Beighton has been "well groomed," independent retail analyst Nick Bubb observed to Reuters, noting that the changeover is "not a big surprise, as [Robertson] has been a little disengaged from the business recently."
Robertson is staying on with Asos as non-executive director.
Helen Ashton, formerly the chief operating officer of debt management company Arrow Global, took over the CFO role on Tuesday.
Robertson has become a well-known figure in the industry over the past 15 years, frequently sought out by those hoping to understand the dramatic changes taking place in retail. Speaking at WWD's annual CEO conference in October 2013, he attributed much of Asos's early success — and ability to survive the dot-com crash — to staying lean and avoiding overcapitalization. "We were lucky," he observed at the time. "We raised so little money to begin with, we couldn't really go wrong. If you raise too much money, your costs are too high and you can't raise anymore. In 2001, 2002 we couldn't raise money if we tried, so we just battled down." The company "broke even" between 2003 and 2004, he recalled.
Though the company brought in about $1.5 billion in sales last year, investors have been worried by Asos's narrow — and falling — profits, which were down 10 percent to £18 million (about $27.5 million) in the six months leading up to Feb. 28. During that period, the company said it felt compelled to lower its prices in international markets to make them more competitive.
Asos has not indicated that it will dramatically alter its current strategy. In a statement announcing the CEO changeover, Asos Chairman McBride indicated that the goal remains, as ever, "to drive Asos along its growth trajectory to become the world's leading online fashion retailer for 20-somethings."