Laura Ashley reports bumper sales

Laura Ashley's sales took off in August, continuing a pickup in business towards the end of the first half, the retailer has said.

The chain most famous for its floral prints said pretax profit was up 9% to £8.5m for the six months to 26 July, excluding an exceptional item a year before. Sales were up 4.9% to £144m although on like-for-like they rose 1.2%.

But sales growth improved in July and like-for-like sales jumped by 8% in August as customers enthused over its autumn home furnishing and fashion lines, said the company.

Sean Anglim, Laura Ashley's finance director, said: "What we have seen is continuation of the momentum in July and a fantastic customer response to our new product ranges. We are very encouraged by the second half."

Its shares were up 8% to 27.25p in response to the strong trading update.

The company is best known for the prints first produced by its eponymous founder on her kitchen table in the 1950s. By the end of the 1980s, after Ashley's death, the company floated on the stock market and had 450 shops as far afield as Japan. But its appeal faded and it lost its way in the 1990s.

Under the Malaysian owners who rescued the company in 1998, Laura Ashley has reduced its dependence on fashion and concentrated on home furnishing, which accounts for about 80% of its sales. It has branched out into a partnership with the Japanese fashion chain Uniqlo and opened a hotel.

Like-for-like furniture sales fell by 1.2% in the first half and equivalent sales in fashion were flat. Like-for-like sales in lighting and other home accessories rose by 4.3% and in decorating they were up 1.3%.

Laura Ashley's chairman, Khoo Kay Peng, and his wife, Pauline Chai, are fighting an acrimonious divorce battle in London over their estimated £400m fortune. They and Khoo's company, MUI, own about 60% of Laura Ashley.

Powered by article was written by Sean Farrell, for on Friday 5th September 2014 10.46 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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