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Online sales up for Laura Ashley and Sports Direct

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Retailers reporting their financial results to the City today continued to show strong growth in their online sales.

Fashion and homewares retailer Laura Ashley said that growth in its ecommerce sales continued to outpace other parts of its business.

While like-for-like group sales growth stood at 4.6% in the year to date, online sales rose by 28.7%, Laura Ashley Holdings said in an interim management statement, “as we continue to enhance and improve our online presence”.

The statement continued: “Despite the current economic uncertainty and adverse weather conditions in the UK, we remain confident that full year trading will be ahead of the board’s expectations.”

The update covered the 19 weeks to December 11 and said in that time total UK retail sales had increased by 1.3%, compared to the same time last year. Like-for-like sales were up by 2.7% in the same period.

Meanwhile, Sports Direct said online revenue continued to grow strongly and that it would “look at opportunities to develop this revenue stream further.”

The company, reporting its first-half results for the 26 weeks to October 24, said online sales now represented 6% of total UK retail sales. The website had benefited both from a move to rebrand stores with fascias and television advertising campaigns which helped to lift web traffic.

In the 26 weeks to October 24, Sports Direct reported an 8.3% rise in group revenues to £819.9m, up from £756.9m at the same time last year. Underlying pre-tax profits rose by 40% to £100.7m, from £71.9m last time.

Key factors in the growth included the build-up to the World Cup. “We continue to offer the most comprehensive range of England-branded products and this was the first FIFA World Cup for the online stores and both traffic and sales have grown significantly.” The poor performance of the England team in the tournament meant sales fell back during the event, but, said Sports Direct, “we estimate that overall the tournament has boosted these results by £15-20m at EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) level.”

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