Fashion and home furnishings retailer Laura Ashley Holdings Plc on Thursday revealed it has narrowed its first half loss, despite what it described as a "challenging economic environment."

For the 26 weeks to 30 July it made a loss of £0.4 million compared to a loss of £2.3 million in the same period last year.

Turnover fell 14.7 per cent to £100.7 million. Total UK sales were down 15.6 per cent to £85.4 million.

The group, which is owned by Malaysian investors, said the improvement was due to improved efficiencies and the maintenance of gross margins - but expressed caution about its second half trading prospects.

Chief executive Lillian Tan said: "Market conditions in the UK high street remain extremely difficult and our performance will depend upon how consumer confidence progresses in the coming months."