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Asos and Boohoo: barbarians at the gate

E-commerce’s takeover of the UK retail sector is nigh, with its leading soldiers set to acquire assets from two former giants of the high street
Asos and Boohoo: barbarians at the gate
  • Boohoo has acquired the Debenhams’ brand
  • The buyouts won’t come cheap, but Asos and Boohoo already have the digital infrastructure needed to turn these acquisitions into a success.

This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Asos has now confirmed its acquisition of Topshop and Miss Selfridge.

In the spring of 2002, Philip Green threw a party befitting the last days of Rome: toga-clad models, popstars and other celebrities were flown to Cyprus for a three-day bacchanal in honour of his 50th birthday. Dressed as Nero, the retail tycoon who made his fortune buying up the UK high street received a solid-gold Monopoly set from his wife to mark the occasion.

But on the other side of Europe, the barbarians were quietly laying the groundwork for their march on Rome’s gate. A small London-listed firm, AsSeenOnScreen, would that same year persuade investors to sign off a proposal for its new name: Asos (ASC). For a website that started out selling imitations of movie costumes, it was the next step on its path to becoming the UK’s leading online fashion retailer.

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