Laura Ashley is plotting its first foray into India and mainland China, where it believes its floral prints and home accessories will be a hit with shoppers.
The retailer is in talks with a number of potential partners in both countries with the view of having its first stores up and running within two years, Laura Ashley’s finance boss and chief operating officer Seán Anglim told City A.M.
As part of its expansion, the company also announced that it has bought its Asian head office in Singapore, which was previously leased and from where it will manage its burgeoning operations.
“We have done quite a lot of research suggest, which suggests good acceptance of the Laura Ashley brand in India. With phenomenal growth and seven to eight annual GDP growth – I think the time is right for us to be there,” Anglim said.
His comments came as Laura Ashley reported a tough first half for its overseas operations, which includes its licensing arm and 296 franchised stores in 30 territories including Japan, Korea and Hong Kong.
Revenues, which account for 8.4 per cent of the business, fell 31.5 per cent as the weak Japanese yen and political turmoil in Russia and Ukraine weighed on sales.
However, Anglim said he expected trading to improve in the second half: “We see these as bumps along the road more than anything else and we think there is every chance they will make a full recovery."
Total group sales fell three per cent to £139.7m in the six months to 1 August as a result of the overseas performance, while profits edged down to £8.4m from £8.5m the same time last year.
Like-for-like retail sales up by seven per cent, which Anglim said was thanks to "standout" sales in furniture and home accessories, which rose 10.4 and 10.5 per cent respectively.
Laura Ashley's boutique hotel in Elstree, which opened two years ago and is decorated in all its homeware and fabrics, enjoyed a year-on-year sales rise of 37 per cent.
The listed 61 year-old British brand, which is controlled by Malaysian investor MUI, has 198 UK stores after closing 10 and opening three new sites last year.