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Laura Ashley puts focus on online for coming year

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Laura Ashley today said ecommerce would continue to be one of its top priorities in the year ahead.

The multichannel fashion and homewares retailer this week unveiled pre-tax profits of £20.5m in the year to January 25, up by 2% compared to the same time last year. But when exceptional items in the form of sales of short-term investments were excluded, pre-tax profits fell by 4% to £19.3m, from £20.1m last time.

Chairman Tan Sri Dr KP Khoo said he was encouraged by good like-for-like sales growth in the second half. “We will continue with the progress we have made in developing our brand, growing our product ranges, improving our systems and enhancing our online business,” he said. “These initiatives, together with the growth of our international franchise business, will remain our primary focus.”

Total group sales fell by 1.4%, or £4.3m, to £294.5m, as store numbers reduced by three and retail space by 16,000 sq ft. Like-for-like sales fell by 0.4% in the full year, but were up by 1.2% in the second half.

Ecommerce contributed 16% of total UK retail sales, and 14% of total group sales. The company’s key overseas markets are France, Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland. The company said it had invested in order management systems during the year that would both improve order lead times and the customer experience.

Total sales of home accessories and decorating products rose but fashion and furniture sales fell.

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