Laura Ashley back in bloom

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The Independent Online

Laura Ashley, purveyor of floral patterned prints to the nation, has shrugged off the uncertain consumer environment to put in a "thriving performance" in the first half.

The home furnishings and fashion group saw growth across its products in the first six months of the year, with pre-tax profits up 10-fold to £10.5m. The total was boosted by a one-off £4.8m property gain, but also by a 63 per cent leap in online purchases. Furniture enjoyed the biggest growth with like-for-like sales up 9.2 per cent, followed by decorating, up 7.1 per cent.

The chain, which has 225 stores in the UK and 233 franchises abroad, is looking to expand further with new stores set to open in South Korea and Jersey. Chairman KP Khoo said: "In a difficult economic climate, Laura Ashley has continued to demonstrate the strength of its brand."