Comment: Iverson slips on her first banana skin

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The Independent Online
So now we know. Despite her high reputation as the woman who revived the fortunes of Mothercare, the woman who can do no wrong, Ann Iverson, cannot walk on water after all. Last year when Laura Ashley shares were riding high at 220p, valuing the company at 50 times prospective earnings, the market was factoring in something miraculous from her. Reality broke through yesterday but not before giving poor Laura a brutal spanking as the shares lost almost one third of their value. Can it be long before Ms Iverson follows the path trodden out of the door by her likeable predecessor, Jim Maxmin? Over-ordering stock and having to slash prices to shift it does, after all, seem a pretty fundamental and wholly avoidable management mistake.

But perhaps such a harsh judgement is premature. Ms Iverson claims almost every aspect of the business needed fixing when she came nearly two years ago.

She has been attempting to improve the merchandise, reposition the brand, get manufacturing costs under control and pursue a strategy of aggressive expansion in the toughest of markets all at the same time. It is hardly surprising there has been a hiccough. There may be more.

Up until now, her performance has actually been pretty good. Her latest set of profits at pounds 16.2m were last achieved back in 1989. The previous regime hardly made any profits for five years. So while this is a bad slip up, she's not been doing too badly.

We are still a long way from Ms Iverson's target of double-digit margins on sales, but she refuses to abandon it and still promises to reach it within four years of her appointment.

Ms Iverson can perhaps be forgiven this, her first banana skin, but she better just pray it is also her last.