• Pre-tax profit reaches GBP25.8m (US$33.6m)
  • Group sales increase to GBP400.9m
  • Fashion sales fall 3.9%

UK fashion and homewares retailer Laura Ashley has offered a confident outlook as it posted growth in earnings and sales in its latest trading period. 

For the 74 weeks to the end of June, profit before tax and exceptional items reached GBP25.8m (US$33.6m) from GBP22.9m in the year ago period. On a pro-rata basis, however, the company's profits fell, as the reporting period compares to 53 weeks in its previous financial year. Laura Ashley is changing its financial year-end to 30 June from 31 January.

Group sales climbed to GBP400.9m from GBP303.6m in the comparable period last year, while total like-for-like retail sales grew 4.1% with like-for-like growth across all categories. Online revenues reached GBP73.5m from GBP48.5m in the comparable period last year. 

Fashion sales, however, dropped 3.9% over the 18-month period, with like-for-like sales up 2.2%. The company has started to partner with selected UK retailers to give broader exposure to its fashion ranges.

Laura Ashley has also signed a new license partner for Australia and said it will continue to explore and develop similar partnership opportunities. 

Earlier this year, the fashion retailer said international growth was central to its strategy. Laura Ashley's Australian arm, which operated in Australia and New Zealand under licence from its UK parent since 1971, fell into administration early in January. 

Laura Ashley Australia arm falls into administration

Chairman Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Peng, said of today's (17 August) results: "I am pleased with the overall performance of the business. Continued like-for-like growth in the UK market, boosted by the good performance of our digital channel, is encouraging.
 
"The company will continue to focus on enhancing the design and quality of its product ranges upon whose provenance the brand has been built. In a time of uncertainty for retail and the global economy at large, I am optimistic and confident that Laura Ashley will remain a business with solid foundations to withstand challenges as they arise."

Verdict Retail analyst Nivindya Sharma described the results as encouraging, adding: "Store rationalisation must remain a core focus for Laura Ashley, and given its relatively stretched profit margin of 5.4%, opportunities for expansion via concessions must be explored more in order to broaden its reach and protect its bottom line."