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ASOS and Online Retail's Changing Landscape as Brick-and-Mortar Stores Show Resilience

ASOS has revealed significant financial setbacks due to a contraction in consumer expenditure and the escalating cost of living. Asos, the owner of Topshop, reported a deficit of £87.4m for the half-year period leading up to February's end, a stark contrast to the £14.8m profit they made during the same timeframe the previous year. The firm's sales have dipped by 10% in the UK and 7% in the US. Despite these hurdles, Asos maintains a positive outlook, projecting that it will be back in the black in the next half-year period.

In the previous October, Asos had communicated a substantial restructuring plan and had forecasted these losses, partially owing to the necessity of slashing prices to eliminate excess inventory. These recent losses come in addition to a £32m financial blow disclosed in its last full-year financial report.

The firm, along with some of its competitors, were once considered successful examples of the transition towards online commerce, particularly during the pandemic when restrictions led a large number of consumers to shop online. However, the reopening of physical stores coupled with the increasing cost of living has impacted consumer spending, leading to a slump in sales.

José Antonio Ramos Calamonte, Asos's chief executive, expressed contentment with the operational adaptations the firm had instituted over the preceding six months, despite the testing market conditions.

While Asos's UK sales remain above the levels seen before the pandemic, they have experienced fluctuations from one month to the next, with particular impacts felt in September due to adverse news related to the cost of living and in December due to postal service disruptions. Outside of the UK and US, the retailer's sales have stagnated in Europe and declined by 12% worldwide in the half-year period leading up to February's end.

Adam Vettese, an analyst at the social investing network eToro, suggested that Asos has been negatively affected by the cost of living influencing its target audience of style-conscious young adults. He noted that, while Asos and similar online-only retailers like BooHoo were once seen as posing a significant threat to physical stores, brick-and-mortar stores are now showing resilience in the post-pandemic landscape.

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