Laura Ashley plunges further into red

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The Independent Online

Laura Ashley today said a slump in fashion sales sent it further into the red as its core customers failed to warm to new ranges.

Laura Ashley today said a slump in fashion sales sent it further into the red as its core customers failed to warm to new ranges.

The group - best known for its floral clothing and furnishings - said like-for-like sales at the fashion division were down 36 per cent in the first half, leaving overall UK same-store sales 10 per cent lower.

A recent overhaul of its fashion division aimed at bringing in younger customers had made its lines less popular with its more traditional core shoppers.

Pre-tax losses came in at £1.2 million for the 26 weeks to July 31, against a deficit of £1 million in the same period last year.

The fall in fashion sales was partly offset by the furnishings arm, which accounts for nearly 80 per cent of business and recorded a 3 per cent increase in like-for-like sales.

Despite the results, Laura Ashley said it did not expect this to be indicative of its performance in the second half.

The London-based company launched a turnaround programme last year and overhauled its fashion division in a bid to halt flagging sales, but has continued to report challenging trading conditions.

Chief operating officer Mike Kingsbury said new more fashionable ranges brought in as part of the overhaul of the fashion division had not appealed to its older customers.

He added: "I'm always loathe to blame the weather but it certainly hasn't helped."

A string of high street retailers have reported declining fashion sales following poor weather this summer.

The company said that since the start of the second half, trading had continued to be broadly in line with first six months.

It added: "In line with other retailers, August was an unusually challenging month and trading is not felt to be indicative of our expectations for the second half.

The group said it was now committed to broadening its offering of furnishings through expanding product lines and new stores. It was encouraged by the performance of its stand-alone home furnishing stores.

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