ASOS is an e-commerce retailer that boasts the latest trends in menswear and womenswear. Dubbed the U.K.’s “ultimate e-commerce success story,” ASOS is also recognized for its inclusive and genderless apparel.
The company, headquartered in London, England, was founded in 2000 by Nick Robertson, Andrew Regan, Quintin Griffiths, and Deborah Thorpe. The brand’s acronym stands for “AsSeenOnScreen,” but nowadays, they are well-known for their slogans focused on customer experience.
It may come as a surprise, but ASOS didn’t really come onto the scene to become a fashion giant. In its early years, ASOS’s main goal was to sell clothes celebrities wore in movies and T.V. shows.
One of the first things it showed was a wallet from the movie “Pulp Fiction,” and another was a mortar and pestle that Jamie Oliver used. As time passed, ASOS slowly moved into fast fashion.
Not long after its first year in business, ASOS went public through the Alternative Investment Market, a sub-market of the London Stock Exchange. Apparently, stocks in said market are known to be volatile, not to mention that it was the year of the 9-11 Attacks, which made the company’s move all the braver.
However, the risk was worthwhile for ASOS as it grew to become one of the biggest businesses in the LSC with more than £2.2 billion in equity. During those years, ASOS added more products (like men’s clothes, accessories, beauty products, etc.) and expanded into the USA, Australia, China, and some parts of Europe.
In 2006, ASOS also launched what is known now as the Virtual Catwalk. The Virtual Catwalk is an augmented-reality-based video that lets customers “experience” products in real life. This feature is the first among U.K. online sellers.
After two decades on AIM, the company was finally admitted to the main London Stock Exchange in early 2022, with the funding raised yet to be disclosed.
It was not all rainbows and sunshine for ASOS, though. The company survived one fire incident after another. The first was in 2005, during the infamous Buncefield Fire. Nine years later, an ASOS warehouse burned down, costing the company a whopping 30 million pounds. Another fire incident followed, destroying another warehouse where the company had to make up for £6 million in losses.
ASOS’s primary market includes young adults, Gen Z, and mid-market consumers. The platform functions similarly to other e-commerce sites. Typically, this site sells things from fast-fashion and local brands.
In 2021, ASOS reported revenues of £3.9 billion and 850 featured brands. Most of the revenue that ASOS generates comes from Europe and the United Kingdom. However, its U.S.-based business has been growing steadily as well.
Meanwhile, ASOS’ website has over 46 million visits per month as of 2022. It achieved all of those metrics while employing slightly over 3,000 people.
The methodology by which competitors of ASOS are ranked is based on various data points. Information like revenue, website traffic, the number of brands featured, and anything else that seems relevant is being considered.
This analysis only looks at fashion retailers that sell to mid-market consumers. High-end brands like LVHM, Chanel, and similar brands are not included. The same goes for luxury retailers like Farfetch or YOOX Net A PORTER.
Furthermore, we will not consider brands like Adidas and Nike as they mainly focus on one specific customer segment (athletic wear, in this case). Used fashion marketplaces, which include companies like Poshmark and Vinted, are also excluded from this comparison.
So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the top 10 competitors of ASOS.
1. Zara (Inditex)
Headquarters: Arteixo, Spain Founder(s): Amancio Ortega and Rosalia Mera Year Founded: 1975
Inditex, most notably known for owning Zara, is the world’s largest fast-fashion retailer. In 2021 alone, it generated USD30.49 billion across its brands, including Pull&Bear, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, and more.
As a result of the COVID pandemic, Inditex has begun to shift its business toward online sales. By 2024, the company hopes to have a third of its revenue from online sales (currently around 25%).
However, the core retail business is nothing to scoff at either. Inditex is present in 215 markets, while its brands operate in close to 6,500 stores. The group employs a whopping 162,000 people on top of that.
Without a doubt, the company’s crown jewel remains Zara, which accounts for most of its income. Zara changed the fast fashion industry in many ways, including getting direct feedback from shoppers, keeping factories close to Spain, and involving its design team in many processes.
In the 1980s, many customers became increasingly inclined to instant fashion—a trend that Zara quickly adapted to. Between the ’80s and ’90s, the company saw rapid growth and international expansion.
Unlike ASOS, Zara manufactures most of the products it sells. There are factories in countries like China, Bangladesh, Brazil, Vietnam, and many others. Research, design, manufacturing, and distribution teams are strategically positioned to quickly create and sell new designs.
Zara took a big leap in the 21st-century fashion industry in 2021 by introducing a virtual fitting room for footwear products. Meanwhile, ASOS had already introduced a version of that in 2019 dubbed See My Fit.
The company earned $3.51 billion in revenue during the same period. Currently, Zara’s website is visited 64 million times a month.
Headquarters: Nanjing, China Founder(s): Yang Pei, Yangtian Xu, Xiaoqing Ren Year Founded: 2008
If you thought that Zara was fast, then you probably haven’t heard of SHEIN yet. The Chinese company has flipped the concept of fast fashion completely on its head.
It works directly with hundreds of factories in China. Once it spots a trend, it tests that style on its website by producing a few thousand units. If the test is deemed successful, the product line is rolled out to tens of millions of users registered on SHEIN.
However, apart from environmental questionability, SHEIN has also been criticized for copying the designs of small fashion labels.
What sets SHEIN apart from ASOS and other competitors is the production speed of new designs. SHEIN has a bunch of manufacturing partners across the globe, all working day and night to produce trendy styles.
How do the suppliers research these trends? Well, SHEIN has its own system of gathering data from various sources like Google, hashtags on social media platforms, and competitors’ websites. The data is then automatically sent to the company’s suppliers.
With that, SHEIN can produce the products within three days, which usually takes weeks for ASOS and other fast fashion brands. SHEIN was initially launched as SheInside, a site that sold wedding dresses to primarily American consumers.
Founder Xiaoqing Ren, who mostly goes by the name Chris Xu, completely revamped the firm to its current model in 2013. Xu has since raised $2.1 billion in funding for the company, now valued at $100 billion—more than H&M and Zara combined.
SHEIN allegedly generated USD15.7 billion in revenue during the fiscal year 2021. On average, the platform is visited 47 million times per month.
3. Hennes & Mauritz (H&M)
Headquarters: Stockholm, Sweden Founder(s): Erling Persson Year Founded: 1947
Hennes & Mauritz, also known as H&M, promotes innovation via environmental sustainability. One illustration is their Agraloop Biofibre, which turns food crop waste—typically hemp oilseed—into simple hoodies or chic trench coats.
Compared to ASOS, they provide a far wider range of clothing. H&M’s expansion can be attributed to its successful multi-faceted marketing approach, including offline and online advertising and raising brand recognition by showcasing its low-priced clothing.
As for recent developments, H&M has partnered with the Swedish company Ikea to launch Atelier100. It is a maker-based concept store that emphasizes the neighborhood’s creative community. In essence, it’s a place like a coworking space where local clothing designers can talk about and sell their designs.
Started as Hennes (Swedish for “hers”) in 1947, the H&M store was inspired by Persson’s trip to New York in the ’40s. From the name itself, the business only catered to women’s wear back then.
It was during the late ’60s when they added the ‘M’ after Hennes acquired the hunting apparel retailer Mauritz Widforss. The business then started catering to men’s and children’s fashion. In the ’70s came the start of international expansion for H&M, beginning in Europe.
Between the 1980s and ’90s, H&M grew bigger and bigger, hiring big-profile endorsers and expanding in a global setting. As the digital age entered, H&M started to sell online in the late ’90s. In the 2010s, the platform began to use materials that were better for the environment.
Based on the most recent information, the company’s revenue was $23.36 billion. They also had 4,801 stores worldwide and about 110,000 employees as of the end of 2021.
On average, H&M’s website gets about 76 million visits every month, and around 32% of H&M’s sales account for online transactions.
Headquarters: Berlin, Germany Founder(s): David Schneider, Robert Gentz Year Founded: 2008
Zalando is another online fashion retailer that sells branded items and its own clothing line in over 25 markets.
More than 6,000 brands, including Armani and Nike, are being sold on its website. It owns private-label brands manufactured by sourcing partners, including Anna Field, Even&Odd, Friboo, Pier One, Yourturn, and ZIGN.
The online platform also works with more than 7,000 retailers via its Connected Retail solution, allowing them to sell directly on its website.
Before starting Zalando, the two tried to create a social network in South America, but it didn’t work out. With funds from German venture capitalist Oliver Samwer and being inspired by the success of Zappos in the U.S., the two decided to bring a similar concept to Europe.
In 2012, after only four years of operations, Zalando earned $1 billion in revenue, making it Europe’s fastest-growing fashion retail company. The company even surpassed Zappos’ growth, the same company after which Zalando was initially patterned.
It was said that the platform’s attention to its market’s wide variety of languages contributes a lot to its success. Unlike ASOS and competitors, Zalando offers language-specific websites and service representatives for each European market to cater to language/accent differences.
The founders raised USD615 million in funding for Zalando, which ultimately went public in October 2014. In 2021, Zalando, which employs over 17,000 people, generated EUR10.4 billion in revenue. The website’s traffic depends on the country, but each site is visited 1 to 9 million times a month on average.
5. John Lewis
Headquarters: London, United Kingdom Founder(s): John Lewis Year Founded: 1864
John Lewis is undeniably one of the longest-standing fashion stores in the world. John Lewis Sr., who had a lot of experience buying silk, opened a drapery shop on Oxford Street in 1864. Eventually, the store also began to sell clothing and household goods.
In 1907, the senior’s son, John Spedan Lewis, joined the business and renamed it John Lewis & Partners. During this time, the store only earned poor profits. The store was then turned over to the young Lewis, who immediately made dramatic changes in hopes of leading the business to success.
Spedan transformed the business into a limited liability company, making employees his partners. It was said that the young Lewis’ focus on its employees was the key to the company’s success. In the 1930s, John Lewis & Partners bought a plethora of stores in England, including the grocery business of Waitrose.
Years before passing away, Spedan transferred the rest of his share to the employees; the rest is history. Aside from its online presence, John Lewis & Partners operates 50 stores across the U.K.
The company keeps running the way young Lewis planned, with employees being treated as co-owners. Under this system, the employee’s compensation is proportional to the company’s earnings. Each employee is given a stake or shares in John Lewis. Per the latest report, John Lewis Partnership has over 80,000 employee partners.
Because John Lewis is an employee-owned company, it puts most of its profits back into the business and gives the rest to its employees. Aside from profit share, employees also receive bonuses depending on the revenue earned.
Apart from fashion and clothing items, John Lewis also sells home products, electronics, and fitness equipment. In 2021, the company generated over £10.8 billion in revenues (over 12 billion USD). Its website attracts over 21 million visitors every month.
Headquarters: Enderby, United Kingdom Founder(s): Joseph Hepworth Year Founded: 1864
Another long-standing fashion retail brand on this list is NEXT. The company was named J. Hepworth & Son until 1982, when it changed to “Next plc.”
As the son of a cloth dresser, Joseph Hepworth knew a lot about fabrics and clothing. After working the same job for a while, he and his brother-in-law started a juvenile clothing business in 1864.
Even though he was on his own after three years, Hepworth kept going with the business. Later, Hepworth’s son Norris joined the company, so it became known as John Hepworth & Son. Norris then switched the business from making clothes and selling them to wholesalers to selling them directly to customers.
The business initially specialized in selling ready-made and made-to-measure suits to men. The company went on to thrive in this field for a hundred years. In 1981, it began to sell women’s wear after buying Kendall & Sons. J. Hepworth & Son then changed to NEXT.
Today, NEXT sells clothing, homeware, and beauty products. They also provide warehousing, distribution networks, and marketing services to other companies in need. For example, in 2021, NEXT entered into a joint venture with Gap’s e-commerce businesses to provide customers with click-and-collect options.
NEXT has been innovative both online and offline, and its Total Retail platform is gaining popularity among third-party brands. It also has a solid online presence, which began in 1999 when its website went live. Six million people are shopping on the site in the U.K. alone.
NEXT recorded revenues of £3.28 billion in 2021. They currently have around 480 stores as of 2022, scattered around the United Kingdom, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Per estimates, the shop’ website has more than 23 million visits per month.
7. The Gap
Headquarters: San Francisco, California Founder(s): Donald Fisher, Doris Fisher Year Founded: 1969
When they started the first The Gap store in San Francisco, the husband-and-wife duo Donald and Doris Fisher began selling men’s Levi’s jeans and record tapes. Within the next seven years, they introduced the first Gap-branded items (1974) and took the company public (1976) with an initial offering of 1.2 million shares of stock.
The Gap became known for its affordable, laid-back classics and iconic denim. It also owns and operates a plethora of other brands, including Banana Republic (bought in 1983), Old Navy (launched internally in 1994), and Athleta (acquired in 2008).
The company’s name came from the reason the founders started it: to fill the gap they encountered first-hand when finding jeans in the right size. By 1986, the company offered children’s wear. A year later, The Gap celebrated its first international expansion in London.
It was during that period that The Gap was able to earn $1 billion in sales for the first time. After a decline in profits in 1992, the company shifted to gender-specific items from unisex styles, effectively getting the firm back on its feet.
The Gap, just like many other fashion retailers, has been shifting more and more of its business towards serving consumers online. For reference, during the mid-2000s, it employed approximately 135,000 people and ran over 3,700 stores.
After decades of thriving, the company was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 225 stores were closed in 2020 alone. In recent years, it has also been challenging for The Gap to catch up, mainly because it hasn’t been able to attract more Gen Z and Millennials.
Nonetheless, its website is still visited over 18 million times a month. Today, The Gap generates USD16.7 billion in net sales (2021) while operating 2,800+ stores across the globe. About 43% of The Gap’s income now comes from online sales. The company currently employs close to 100,000 people.
Headquarters: Dublin, Ireland Founder(s): Arthur Ryan Year Founded: 1969
Primark is a fashion retailer known for its extremely low prices, often far below what firms like H&M offer. It has close to 400 stores in 14 markets, including the U.S. and Europe.
The firm initially launched as Penneys in Ireland, a name under which 36 of its stores in the country still operate. However, when it wanted to expand into the U.K. in 1973, the Penney trademark had already been registered by American retailer JCPenney.
Founder Arthur Ryan had launched Primark on behalf of the Weston family, who had started Associated British Foods (ABF) in the 1930s. ABF remains the sole owner of Primark to this date. Meanwhile, the fashion retailer is now ABF’s biggest revenue generator.
While the low prices attract many consumers, the reasons behind this become the subject of concern. Reportedly, Primark affords cheap costs due to low wages for employees and mass production.
Primark also spends less on marketing than most other brands of clothing stores and instead relies on word of mouth. And while an online presence is almost imperative for most fashion stores to thrive, Primark doesn’t sell online. Instead, customers can check products’ availability on the website and visit the corresponding branch that has stock.
It may seem absurd at first, but it saves Primark from additional shipping, packaging, and customer support costs, which ASOS and other competitors have to deal with.
Today, Primark employs over 65,000 people while generating revenues of GBP5.6 billion (USD6.37 billion) annually. The store’s website is visited about 13 million times a month.
Headquarters: Manchester, United Kingdom Founder(s): Karol Cane and Mahmud Kamani Year Founded: 2006
Boohoo is a social media-famous fashion retailer targeting customers between 16 and 30. This platform is among the “ultra-fast-fashion” businesses, adding new items to its portfolio almost daily.
One of the co-founders, Kamani, is the son of a small-time textile business owner, Prinstripe. Later, he joined his father’s business and hired the fashion design graduate Kane in 1993. By 2006, the two decided to set up a fashion retail business and called it Boohoo.
Boohoo began as a fully online venture in the U.K. The two founders quickly made it a success with their experience in fashion sourcing. Like ASOS, Boohoo benefited from the pandemic, whereas many other fashion retailers suffered. Because of its pure online set-up, the company’s profits rose by more than half.
Boohoo works by testing a small number of products, which will then be made in large quantities if enough people want to buy them. In testing the design’s feasibility, Boohoo considers the buyers’ demographic.
While people between 16 and 24 may have limited income, Boohoo still gets the shot due to its low prices. The company also commits a significant amount to marketing campaigns. Aside from celebrity endorsements, Boohoo has a large social media presence, with over 13 million followers on Instagram.
Despite the benefits of an online-only business model, Boohoo opened its first brick-and-mortar store in New York in 2014. The fashion retail store is now available at 13 locations in the U.K., USA, France, Italy, and Turkey.
In 2021, Boohoo earned more than $800 million in revenue. Every month, its online store is visited 17 million times.
However, it hasn’t always been sunny in Boohoo land. In mid-2020, the firm made headlines as reports about the working condition of the company’s suppliers spread. A statement by The Sunday Times said that a Boohoo supplier in Leicester paid meager wages to workers.
Headquarters: London, United Kingdom Founder(s): John James and Mary Anne Sainsbury Year Founded: 1869
The Sainsbury couple founded the company as a fresh food and grocery retailer. By adopting a unique store environment, Sainsbury’s quickly became recognizable to many people in England.
Despite the company’s long history, it was only in 1994 that Sainsbury’s started to sell clothes. Twenty years later, they also made the Tu Clothing line available online. Aside from Tu, Sainsbury’s also owns many brands that cater to a wide range of sizes, such as Petites and Maternity.
Dubbed the sixth biggest clothing retailer in the UK, Sainsbury’s sells clothes at over 400 locations. The company’s clothing line works with a team of fashion spotters, gaining inspiration from runways.
At first, Sainsbury’s focused more on low-end clothing, but over time, it started selling high-street clothing to compete with companies like ASOS, H&M, and Zara. By making high-quality items, the company changed the stigma of buying clothes in supermarkets, which had been around for a long time.
Sainsbury doesn’t disclose its revenues from different segments of the business. In 2021, however, the company earned over $29 billion in total revenues. Meanwhile, its official online clothing store has more than 16 million monthly visits.
Aside from the companies mentioned above, many fashion retailers are heating up the competition for ASOS. J.D. Sports, a brand under the Chinese giant JD.com, take a sizable number of customers in the U.K., the U.S., Europe, and some parts of Asia.
Amazon is also a popular go-to place for many online shoppers. The e-commerce giant sells thousands of fashion items from official brand sites, small-time retailers, and casual sellers. Launched in 2017, Prime Wardrobe lets customers try on clothes at home and pay only for those they want to keep.
In addition to Amazon, there are also eBay, Alibaba, and Walmart. Although they sell many other products, these companies also house several “fashion finds” that consumers occasionally add to their cart while buying other items.
Department stores such as Marks & Spencer, Macy’s, and Dover Street Market also have their own online presence. As these stores have long been popular shops in the pre-digital era, many customers still prefer shopping at them on-site or online.