Profits climb at Laura Ashley despite consumer slowdown

LAURA Ashley said it was on track to meet its expectations for the year after doubling the interim dividend and reporting a 28 per cent rise in first-half adjusted pre-tax profit.

The furniture and clothing company said yesterday that all its product categories except home accessories showed positive like-for-like sales growth in the period.

“While the consumer environment continues to be uncertain, we remain confident for the remainder of the year,” the firm said.

Retail sales in August fell 0.6 per cent on a like-for-like basis as cash-strapped consumers bought fewer non-essential items such as homeware or furniture. Pre-tax profit before exceptional charges rose to £7.3m for the 26 weeks to the end of July, up from £5.7m last year. Revenue was nearly flat at £135.3m. The company declared an interim dividend of 1p.

Laura Ashley shares, which have lost a fifth of their value over the past three months, closed at 20.75p, valuing the firm at about £135m.

Analysts at Seymour Pierce said the figures showed consumer spending was “robust” despite concerns over the outlook.