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Laura Ashley reports ecommerce sales rise; Tesco update

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Laura Ashley today reported ecommerce sales were up by nearly a fifth in the early part of its current financial year.

The fashion-to-homewares retailer said in an interim management statement that online sales rose by 18.8% in the 18 weeks to January 26. The rise came as it reported a 5.4% increase in like-for-like sales across its UK retail estate, with total sales up by 4.1 – and said it was confident the trend would continue for the rest of 2012.

Its growth online, said the retailer, was partly down to major developments of the website that had made it easier to navigate. The site now shows the whole of the retailer’s bespoke upholstery range. A mobile website has also been launched, and the online service expanded to French customers.

Meanwhile, in its own interim management statement, supermarket Tesco reported a 2.2% rise in group sales for the 13 weeks to May 26, but a 0.3% fall in total UK sales to 2.0%. It said it had started work on its six-point plan to build a better Tesco in the UK. Online, that included the launch of a dotcom grocery delivery subscription scheme and the continued widening of the Tesco Direct range, which now stands at more than 100,000 products. Elsewhere, the company has taken on more than 4,300 new staff and “refreshed” more than 100 stores since the start of the year.

Chief executive Philip Clarke said: “We are rapidly implementing our six-point UK plan and I’m particularly proud of the relaunch of our Everyday Value range and the fact we have now put extra staff into 700 of our stores – in 500 of them within the last three weeks alone. Our customers are seeing the evidence of the changes we’re making and they’re telling us they like what they see.”

Phil Dorrell, a director at retail consultants, Retail Remedy, said he had expected “far stronger numbers” from Tesco. Nothing fundamental has changed in the way Tesco is marketing itself to its customers.

“Tesco still lacks a clear definition of its USP, continues to offer a bland and soulless shopping experience and will be hard pushed to maintain its market share over this financial year.

“The leadership still seems to be focused on the quick fixes, more appropriate to running a store than a business, and maybe this highlights the real issue.

“With MacLaurin and Leahy, Tesco had brave leadership that looked far into the future though the eyes of trusted and talented people.

“These days Tesco appears to be looking at the ground around its feet through the eyes of one man. It’s not hard to see which approach brings the most success.”

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