Reshaping results

Fast impact. Sustainable results.

We help you respond to the challenges, providing trusted leadership in these urgent, critical and complex situations to help you recover and preserve value for a better future.

The better the question. The better the answer. The better the world works.

Fashioning a sustainable future for an online clothing retailer

EY teams have helped fashion retailer ASOS to identify opportunities to unlock value, making it more resilient and better prepared for the future.

The better the question. The better the answer. The better the world works.

What should a growth-oriented company do to fuel more growth?

ASOS engaged the EY Reshaping Results team to help it identify new opportunities to unlock value in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

In early 2020, ASOS was at a crossroads. After close to two decades of stellar performance, the UK online fashion retailer found itself faced with increasing competition, profit and growth headwinds, and challenging operational issues resulting from the simultaneous implementation of two state-of-the-art international distribution centers.

To address these issues, CEO Nick Beighton instituted a comprehensive plan to refocus the business and set it on course for the next stage of its growth. As a pioneer in online fashion, the company had enjoyed first-mover advantage, but market competition had put pressure on margins, creating a need for greater efficiencies and flexibility.

However, as a relatively young, fast-growing company, it had neither the experience nor sufficient internal capacity to deliver value transformation programs.

Beighton had not previously employed outside consultants. “I was always very proud that ASOS had the capability internally and was able to think differently,” he says. “We were always able to turn left when others turned right.”

But, having been introduced to EY teams, he reconsidered that stance. “I realized that it was a great moment for us to re-examine what we do. The EY process and challenge has built on and complemented that internal capability to assist us with the next level of growth.”

ASOS showroom
The better the question. The better the answer. The better the world works.

A focus on cost and cash

EY teams drove value by identifying, quantifying and prioritizing cost and cash opportunities.

“We could see that the opportunity for the organization was massive,” says Beighton, recalling his brief to the EY team. “What we were less clear about was how we extract the right fuel to fund our growth aspirations.”

Mona Bitar, UK&I Consumer Leader, Ernst & Young LLP says that the approach of EY teams was to help the ASOS leadership team look at their business as an external investor would: “We took an “outward-in” approach and challenged the team to think about their business in a different way.” She adds that it was important to bring the executive team on a journey, ensuring they were engaged so they felt comfortable and accountable for owning targets and plans.

The EY teams focused on a rapid diagnostic that covered extensive areas – including looking at the product range, customer segmentation, supplier performance, logistics, inventory and support functions – and was able to identify significant opportunities to help super-charge ASOS’s ambitions. This was achieved by bringing together people from a number of service offerings, including Strategy; Restructuring and Turnaround Strategy; Valuation, Modeling & Economics; and Consulting, as well as retail professionals – all working as one team.

The COVID-19 pandemic posed an additional challenge and meant that the EY team had to present their findings to ASOS on a video call. Beighton praises the way EY adapted to the unexpected new working conditions: “I was impressed with their ability to pivot with the new circumstances and still bring us solutions, in a moment when I’m sure EY staff’s lives were turned upside down in the same ways our lives were turned upside down,” he says. Indeed, many of the key team members on both sides have still never met face to face.

ASOS offices
The better the question. The better the answer. The better the world works.

Different ways of working and increased agility

The work EY teams have done with ASOS has helped the retailer to change the way it thinks and given it the confidence to pursue its ambitions.

ASOS incorporated the EY team’s findings into its three-year strategic plan, helping to enable it to set clear and ambitious targets. To achieve these, the company has established an enterprise-wide value transformation program, which EY teams are now helping it to shape.

Had we not reshaped ourselves, we would not have had the ability to buy that brand that we so dearly wanted.
Nick Beighton

ASOS incorporated the EY team’s findings into its three-year strategic plan, enabling it to set clear targets to achieve its ambitions. To do so, the company has established an enterprise-wide value transformation program, which EY is now helping it to shape.

Beighton believes one of the reasons the relationship between ASOS and EY teams have worked so well is that both are purpose-led organizations. “That helped build and maintain trust,” he says. “At the core of what we’re doing, we’re both aligned on achieving outcomes in a way that suits both of us. Also, when you have bumps in the road during the process, it allows you to recommit to trust. You can say, I disagree with this, you disagree with that, but actually, we both want something that’s better. So it brings you back together.”

The work of the EY teams has already started to bear fruit, with strong savings in cash and costs made in the first year.

As Beighton explains, it also helped enable the company to achieve a long-held ambition. “During January, the comfort we’d built in the business and the cushions we’d built in terms of greater earnings and cash flow – programs EY was working with us on – enabled us to buy Topshop [and other Arcadia brands],” he says. “Had we not reshaped ourselves, we would not have had the ability to buy that brand that we so dearly wanted.”

As ASOS prepares for business in a post-pandemic world, it has identified clear efficiencies and now has a smart strategic plan, making it more resilient, better prepared for the future and, ultimately, able to continue inspiring and delighting its fashion-loving 20-something customers in a way that is difficult for others to copy.

ASOS breakout space

What EY can do for you

We deliver solutions at pace, supporting clients as they recover, perform and improve. Whether you are a public or private company, government institution, investor or financial stakeholder, we work closely with clients with a focus on execution to transform financial and/or operational performance from value recovery, preservation and through to value creation.

We offer deep insight and practical on-the-ground support to help you answer:

  • How can I establish an effective Crisis Management team to get more control of the situation?
  • How can I build and secure liquidity, managing the impact of disruption between finance and operations?
  • How can I get more visibility on potential business risks and give clear recommendations for action?
  • How can I protect business continuity?
  • Who can help me develop options for a rescue or recovery plan; then help me find capital to support it and negotiate with my stakeholders?

We offer the support you need to achieve your objectives:

  • Contingency planning and insolvency services

    Most restructurings need a “Plan B” — whether as a contingency plan to provide comfort for directors and stakeholders or, alternatively, for financial stakeholders to create a credible point of leverage to break the deadlock and help all parties reach a consensual deal. In particularly challenging situations, when directors and businesses are facing increasing risks and challenges to continued trading, we create the time, space and environment to develop and deliver the right solutions.

    We work with management and financial stakeholders to use the pace, protection, powers and flexibility available under insolvency laws to address the issues threatening a business’ survival. We use contingency planning and insolvency solutions to create restructuring legacies by increasing the chance of a consensual restructuring through a credible “Plan B,” delivering a rescue that could not otherwise be achieved, preserving and recovering value, stabilizing critical services, and protecting jobs or by providing a controlled exit.

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  • Corporate simplification services

    Group structures can become increasingly complex through M&As, JVs and organic growth. This can lead to increased costs, as well as difficulties managing risk, simplifying operations, improving transparency and complying with changing regulations.

    We have experience supporting the complete spectrum of organizations, whether large multinational companies seeking to reduce their global entity footprint, or a small domestic organization looking to remove a single entity from its structure for a specific purpose. Our team integrates restructuring, tax and financial consulting knowledge to help organizations assess, rationalize and simplify their legal entity structures across the following key phases of corporate simplification: setup, group complexity analysis, program management, due diligence, and issue resolution and entity eliminations.

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  • Non-performing loans services

    Non-performing loans (NPLs) remain a challenge for banks, particularly in these times of economic uncertainty.

    Our loan portfolio solutions team brings together experienced operators and deal advisors to advise financial institutions about their non-performing loan portfolios and also the buyers of those portfolios, delivering value through our breadth of knowledge and expertise.

  • Liquidity and working capital services

    The adage that “cash is king” is more relevant today than ever. Dynamic and disrupted markets, geopolitical uncertainty, and ever-growing corporate transparency are putting increasing pressure on companies’ liquidity and cash flows. Many management teams struggle to sustain good control over short-term cash flows and the working capital that drives them, leaving the business vulnerable to market and operational changes.

    We have experience supporting the complete spectrum of companies, whether a successful business seeking to enhance shareholder value or an organization experiencing a cash crisis. We help you develop the three main ingredients of strong working capital management: identification of cash-generating opportunities, cash flow forecasting, and visibility and control through our advanced digital analytical techniques.

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  • Interim management: Chief Restructuring Officer/Advisor

    EY can help with interim management acting as a Chief Restructuring Officer (CRO) and offering Chief Restructuring Advisor (CRA) services. Restructuring or turning around an organization brings many challenges on top of the daily demands of running a business, for example: managing competing agendas, creating time to develop options, knowing which option is the right one when information may be imperfect and executing decisions at pace to maintain stakeholder support in a stressed environment.

    We create understanding, alignment and support with internal and external stakeholders. We focus on actions that deliver transformational outcomes and provide interim management solutions, including offering a CRO or CRA, to help you deliver results.

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  • Preserving stakeholder value

    Stakeholders are asked to respond quickly when businesses underperform, or suffer liquidity shortfalls or value erosion. We help provide support in a rapidly changing environment when information is incomplete, agendas no longer align and confidence is reduced.

    We work with all stakeholders to preserve, create and realize value through restructuring advice, critical appraisal of a company’s ongoing viability, stakeholder intermediation, options analysis and entity priority analysis.

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  • Debt restructuring, raising capital and M&A services

    Preserving value for a company and its stakeholders often requires a reshaping of the capital structure and assets in the portfolio. This is often achieved by a combination of financial restructuring and liability management, together with M&A activities to dispose of non-core assets and potentially source new equity. EY professionals are experienced in helping you analyze, structure, negotiate with stakeholders and execute the best possible solution.

    In the USA, Ernst & Young Capital Advisors, LLC (EYCA) is a registered broker-dealer and member of Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA: and offers investment banking services with access to EY debt restructuring, M&A, debt capital markets and equity capital markets professionals across the globe.

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  • Rapid value creation services

    Most businesses are likely to experience operational challenges and underperformance at some point. While the root causes can be buried, the negative impact can be highly visible — profit warnings, declining performance metrics, failure to achieve project milestones, loss of customer contracts or management departures.

    Whether a business is in crisis or is simply facing an operational challenge, our team is experienced in helping management teams identify and prioritize the most critical issues, stabilize the business, establish a leadership and stakeholder consensus around the solution, in order to rapidly improve performance and create value.

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  • Private equity value creation services

    Our hands-on value creation leaders help PE companies (and sponsors) deliver their investment case by accelerating cash and profit improvements, from ideation to results. We prioritize our involvement to focus on situations we know best: complex carve-outs, functional transformations, and instances of stress or distress.

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Forging a new chapter of British Steel

Watch how EY quickly mobilized and physically integrated teams across all British Steel’s facilities in the UK, France and Netherlands to get the best outcome for liquidation.

Contact us for immediate support through these volatile and uncertain times

We have a clear view of the critical questions and new answers required for effective crisis management, business resilience and continuity.

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