Ex-St Andrews student Heron’s company flies sky high

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A former St Andrews University student has revealed how his eco-friendly retail site achieved profit in under 12 months, representing a spectacular turnaround for the previously multi-million pound loss-leading company.

Ascension.co.uk, which specialises in ethical clothing, gifts and toiletries, achieved profit for the first time less than a year after it was bought by Luke Heron for £1.

Luke’s emergency strategy of focusing on margins, introducing selected, affordable surplus items and expanding the product range has successfully seen Ascension.co.uk rise into profit, with further growth forecast this year.

Under previous ownership, the company lost almost two million in the year to 2009, and just over a million in the year to 2010.

After Luke took the helm, it made profit for the first time, of just under £8K, in the year to April 2011, representing a turnaround of more than £1.2 million in less than 12 months.

And the company is expecting to confirm further exponential growth with 100 per cent year on year increase and profits of around £80K in March.

Ascension.co.uk was previously a stock market listed subsidiary of Adili plc, founded by ASOS co-founder Quentin Griffiths, but lost more than £6.2 million in its three-and-a-half-year history before it was acquired by Luke in 2010.

The company was moved from Dorset to Stirlingshire, and he implemented a strategy of improving margins and expanding the offering to meet the challenge of bringing it into profit.

In addition to its core clothing lines, the online retail offering was expanded with ethical jewellery and own label organic toiletries.

By sourcing high end ethical products from suppliers’ surplus lines, the company boosts margins by bringing customers quality clothing at recession-friendly prices, while practising the eco-conscious ethos it preaches.

Ascension.co.uk currently stocks over 40 fair trade brands from across the globe, with the mix of products for women, men and children making use of organic textiles.

Luke told the Citizen: “Turning around the fortunes of Ascencion.co.uk has been incredibly hard work, and it is very exciting to see it now facing a bright future. ‘‘

He has hinted at major plans for 2012, including the launch of a sister site www.adili.com as an ethical alternative to Groupon.