Laura Ashley price cutting boosts sales

LAURA ASHLEY, the womenswear and home furnishings retailer famous for its floral prints, continues to defy the hardship on the high street, with sales rising nearly five per cent since August.

With the latest UK sales data showing improved retail sales in London in November but sluggishness across the rest of the country, Laura Ashley impressed the City with its interim update yesterday.

The Fulham-based company founded by Welsh designer Laura Ashley in the early 1950s said like-for-like sales climbed 4.9 per cent in the 19 weeks to 12 December. Total sales were up 8.8 per cent in the period.

Laura Ashley said it had continued to discount since August, driving strong growth in online sales.

Sales from its e-commerce division rose 47.5 per cent, making up for a 23.7 per cent slide in mail order sales. The growth in online sales and the decline in the mail order business was broadly in line with the last time Laura Ashley updated the market in September.

In what it described as a “challenging” market, Laura Ashley said it would seek to build on the strength of its quintessentially British brand as well as driving operational efficiencies.

Laura Ashley expects an improved profit performance in the second half after foreign exchange losses dented the bottom line in the first six months of the year.

The company, which has 231 stores in the UK and Ireland, has no plans to significantly add to existing locations until the economic tide turns.

One store was closed and one opened during the period.

Analysts at Numis said the company was on the right track, saying the sales data was slightly ahead of expectations.