Online fashion and accessories retailer Asos Plc today (29 June) posted a 93% hike in full-year profit thanks to soaring sales of its celebrity-inspired styles - and said it is looking ahead to "another year of strong growth."

The retailer, which is benefiting from both the popularity of online retail and demand for fashion from a young market whose spending is relatively unscathed by the recession, said its new year had got off to a strong start with sales for the 13 weeks to 26 June up 52% year-on-year.

This is "an exceptional performance, given the current economic climate," said chief executive Nick Robertson.

Asos, which sells branded and own label women's wear, men's wear, footwear, and accessories to fashion forward 16-34 year olds, said pre-tax profit jumped to GBP14.1m (US$23.4m) from GBP7.3m a year earlier.

The launch of new features including an outlet shop, designer brands and children's wear helped lift sales by 104% to GBP165.4m from GBP81.0m.

It also extended its own label ranges into maternity and ASOS Black, a premium line, during the year ended 31 March.

International sales in particular took a significant step-up, soaring 303% to GBP32.2m on the back of the weakness of sterling against the US dollar and the euro.

Worldwide demand was also boosted by widening the number of countries served from 34 to 58 - with Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, France and the US the top five performing countries outside the UK.

Robertson singled out international expansion as "the largest growth opportunity open to Asos," with plans including flat rate shipping charges and stand-alone, country specific, Asos sites.

In the last year alone, international sales have risen from 10% to 19% of total sales.

The company estimates there were 24,700 items listed on its website on 20 June, and expects to extend this to around 30,000 options for the autumn/winter season.

In the pipeline are an own label children's wear range and an own-label plus size range later in the year.

In August the retailer is also adding products from Gap and Mango, taking the number of brands that it sells to 820.

Robertson described the 52% rise in first quarter sales as "an exceptional performance, given the current economic climate," but noted that it compares to an increase of 95% for the same period last year.

"Clearly we are facing much tougher comparables," he said, "and there is now some evidence to suggest that the rate of growth in online sales has begun to moderate."

In May 2009, for example, the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) reported an 8% year on year growth in clothing sales, the lowest year on year increase since the index was launched nine years ago.

That said, other figures suggest the structural shift to online continues - with a report by Verdict forecasting the percentage of clothing bought on line is expected to double in the next 3 to 4 years, from 5.7% at the end of 2008 to over 11% by 2013. 

Against this backdrop, Asos says it intends to be "more conservative" in its short term investments, with key developments including merchandise management and stock planning systems.