Online fashion group Asos has seen sales, profits and customer numbers continue to surge as Covid restrictions push trade away from the High Street.

Asos added one and a half million customers in the past six months, giving it a total of 24.9 million.

Sales rose 24% in the six months to 28 February, with profits jumping to £106.4m, up from £30.1m a year earlier.

Chief executive Nick Beighton said the pandemic had forced Asos to “rip up the playbook” as the market shifted.

He told a conference call that in normal times, its young customer base was interested in buying clothes for going out.

But under lockdown, there had been a greater emphasis on activewear, casual wear and beauty products.

Asos had “quickly pivoted the customer offer to meet demand” in those areas, he said, with jersey tops and casual bottoms proving strong sellers.

Mr Beighton said Asos was expecting a “shift back to occasion wear” as lockdown restrictions eased. This would begin with daywear, then evening wear, he said.

“During that time, flexibility will be vital for us,” he added.

Asos said its integration of Topshop and other Arcadia brands, which Asos bought in February, was “progressing to plan”.

As well as Topshop, Asos also acquired the Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT brands in a £395m deal, but not their network of about 70 shops.

The company said its latest “record results” had been driven by “exceptional execution”.

In the UK, where Asos now has more than seven million customers, sales were particularly strong, climbing by 39%.

Momentum built

As an online-only business, Asos is one of the few retailers that have benefited from lockdown.

“For a long, long time, e-commerce has been growing,” chief executive Nick Beighton told the BBC.

“What we’ve seen over the last 12 months is a step-change in e-commerce as a mix of total sales. So we don’t think this is a high point, e-commerce is here to stay, but it can sit happily alongside stores.”

In the company’s results statement, Mr Beighton said he was “delighted” with the “exceptional first-half performance”.

“Looking ahead, while we are mindful of the short-term uncertainty and potential economic consequences of the continuing pandemic, we are confident in the momentum we have built and excited about delivering on our ambition of being the number one destination for fashion-loving 20-somethings.”

Beating expectations

Asos said it was still cautious about the outlook in the short term, because of uncertain economic prospects for its youthful target group.

Risks included possible further Covid-19 peaks, as well as the timetable for the easing of global pandemic restrictions.

However, it added that it was “well positioned to capture demand for event-led product when lifestyles normalise”.

Arlene Ewing, investment manager at Brewin Dolphin, said Asos had beaten analysts’ expectations on profits.

“The business is in great shape, with cash on its balance sheet and the acquisition and integration of brands such as Topshop yet to be fully reflected in performance,” she added.

“With greater geographical diversification and investment in customer fulfilment over the last year or so, Asos is in a very strong position – a fact demonstrated by the more than 400% increase to its share price since the start of the pandemic.”