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Laura Ashley in the red as its home furnishing falls out of fashion | Business News



Laura Ashley has plunged into the red after dwindling demand for its furniture and decorating products dragged sales lower – partly blamed on weak consumer confidence.

The homeware and clothing retailer said it was planning to spruce up its product ranges as it reported a £14.3m loss for the year to the end of June compared to a profit of £100,000 a year ago.

It is also closing a handful of its UK stores over the coming year, adding to six shut in 2018/19. The results follow two profit warnings earlier this year.

Chairman Andrew Khoo said: “The last twelve months have proved to be a difficult trading period for the group and indeed for the retail sector as a whole.”

He said the main causes of the fall in profit were the sales performance of its home furnishing ranges and problems caused by changes to its website late last year.

General views of a closed shops in Bradford city centre 28/5/2013

The UK’s high street revolution

Like-for-like retail sales fell by 3.5% though the figure masked a much bigger decline for UK sales of furniture, down 9%, and decorating, down 13.7%.

Fashion ranges did much better, with growth of 9.2% and home accessories added 1.1%.

The company, which has 155 UK stores, said it believed the poor performance for furniture, its most expensive category, had seen “some impact from weak consumer confidence, particularly at higher price points”.

It is aiming to introduce “more contemporary styles” over coming months.

The company has also launched a “thorough review” of its decorating range to introduce new styles and designs “which will add modernity but retain the Laura Ashley handwriting”.

It said it planned to open two new stores and close between five and seven over the coming year.

Meanwhile, the company is pressing ahead with plans for grow its small chain of Laura Ashley tea rooms and said aims to take these overseas were making progress.

The update comes after a survey of UK households by IHS Markit reported that consumer confidence was at a three-month low amid fears of a possible recession – prompting households to be more cautious about major purchases.

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