The new chairman of Laura Ashley looks set to shift its focus to Asia and China – and online, while scaling back its UK presence through the closure of up to 40 stores.
That could mean the retailer cuts its shop numbers in the UK from 160 to 120, in figures that emerged in an interview that incoming chairman Andrew Khoo Boo Yeow gave to the Press Association, and which has subsequently been widely reported.
Andrew Khoo Boo Yeow has been appointed non-executive chairman of the Laura Ashley board, where he takes over from his father. Laura Ashley’s outgoing executive chairman Khoo Kay Peng had led the company since 1999 but retired earlier this month. At the time, Andrew Khoo said that Dr Khoo left Laura Ashley as “a stronger and much-loved global brand”.
This week Andrew Khoo was reported as saying that he wanted to focus on China and online. “The direction I want to go is to have not so many stores but maybe the ones we have could be larger,” he said. “It’s more about showcasing the brand. It doesn’t really mater if they buy online or offline, we just want them to get inspired.”
He said: “We’re moving to Asia in a much bigger way,” adding: “Once we get a significant foothold in digital retail in China, we can look at the physical stores rollout.”
A Laura Ashley spokesperson added, in a statement to InternetRetailing: “Laura Ashley’s new chairman has outlined his vision for the brand, which includes significant expansion in Asia, including opening bricks and mortar stores in China.
“As part of this vision Laura Ashley will continue to review its store portfolio for the long term. There is no timetable for store closures and no list has been prepared.”
Laura Ashley currently trades from stores across the UK and as far afield as Kuwait and Chile, and from 18 international ecommerce websites, covering markets including Armenia, Chile, Australia, the US, 13 EU markets, Ukraine, and Korea.