Fashion retailers back in vogue

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The Independent Online

Laura Ashley continued its return to form over Christmas, while Burberry had its best quarter since its initial public offering nearly five years ago, in a further sign that luxury retailers were the biggest festive winners.

Both retailers posted a strong jump in underlying sales yesterday and told analysts to upgrade their profits forecasts.

Laura Ashley, which looks to have closed the door on a turbulent few years, said like-for-like sales in the 50 weeks to 13 January rose by 8.7 per cent. The rate of growth was slower in its second half, when it was up against stronger previous year comparisons, but total sales grew from all four of its product categories: home accessories, decoration, furniture and fashion.

Seymour Pierce raised its full-year profits forecast to £12m from £10.5m, in line with the company's guidance after "strong margin growth". The group is rejigging its estate and closing underperforming outlets. It opened 17 shops during the year and closed 10.

Burberry, which has delved into its archives to replace its ubiquitous check, beat forecasts with a 25 per cent rise in underlying revenues to £206m during its third quarter.

The best performance came from its retail arm on the back of a strong collection of "seasonless" outerwear, which meant it did not suffer from the warm winter, according to Stacey Cartwright, the finance director. Like-for-like sales from its UK stores rose by about 13 per cent, in line with the rest of the group.

Burberry said it would take a £5.2m hit to cover the cost of shutting its Welsh factory. It has had to pay out more than it bargained at £3.5m to cover "enhanced" redundancy packages.

It is also relocating its head office during the next 18 months.

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