Laura Ashley shines through the downpours and promises more

Laura Ashley, the fashion-to-home furnishings chain, has shrugged off the consumer downturn and soggy April to deliver a strong rise in sales over the past 18 weeks.

The high street stalwart also made the bold forecast that it expects the recent growth in underlying sales to continue throughout the rest of this year.

While Laura Ashley has traditionally been best known for its floral dresses, the retailer has made its fashion offer more contemporary and has also smartened up its other product categories, including furniture, soft furnishings and accessories, over the past two years.

The chain posted a 4.1 per cent jump in total UK retail sales over the 18 weeks to 2 June, while its like-for-like revenues leapt by 5.4 per cent.

Freddie George, analyst at Seymour Pierce, said: "We believe it is a good result considering the poor weather over the period, particularly in April and difficult comparatives."

The retailer's upgraded website delivered an 18.8 per cent rise in sales.

The shares have staged a dramatic recovery since bottoming out at 16p last August.

Yesterday they were trading at 23p, unchanged on the day.

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