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Laura Ashley ‘committed to multichannel’ despite falling ecommerce revenues

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Laura Ashley today said it remained committed to a multichannel strategy despite falling ecommerce revenue.

The home furnishings-to-fashion retailers today said that online sales fell by 3.7% in the half year to July 27, but represented a higher proportion of its total sales – 16.4%, from 16% at the same time last year. The drop came as group sales fell by 5.6% to £137.3m, compared to the same period last year, while like-for-like retail sales were down by 2.2%.

Pre-tax profits fell by 10.8%, or £0.9m, to £7.4m from £8.3m last year.

“We remain committed to a multichannel strategy,” said the company’s interim results statement. “Ecommerce, mail order and retail stores continue to work in a highly complementary way to drive sales.”

It said operations in the first half had been affected by “significant systems enhancements in customer ordering,” but that those improvements would now result in a better customer experience. Laura Ashley said it also continued to develop the website.

The company has continued to see the fall in the second half of its year, with trading in the eight weeks to September down by 1.3%. This, said Laura Ashley, reflected the “continued underperformance of the fashion category.”

Chairman Tan Sri Dr KP Khoo said the first half had been a challenging one. “A period of prolonged cold weather impacted fashion sales as customers continued to wear winter clothing and did not buy into spring summer ranges later in the season. The subsequent switch into a long spell of very hot weather, particularly throughout July, had a negative impact on home furnishing sales.”

He said that international expansion would continue to be “a key focus” for the company in its 60th year of trading. Laura Ashley currently has 280 franchised stores in 28 markets worldwide, with new stores opening in seven territories including Japan, Australia and South Korea in the first half. Nonetheless, franchising and licensing revenue fell by 3.6% to £15.1m in the first half.

In the UK, said Dr Khoo, “we will continue to adjust our store portfolio to ensure it delivers a profitable core business.”

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