Fashion and furnishings retailer Laura Ashley is reportedly in talks to open its first store in China as early as next year.

The retailer, which operates 211 UK stores and has 263 franchised stores around the world, plans to double its franchise if its entry into China is successful, according to US business magazine Forbes.

Business development manager Kai Xiang Teo said Laura Ashley does not want to make the mistake of going into the country too fast, the report noted. Teo added that the brand should not "reinvent" itself in China but blend in with other retailers.

Last month, the retailer shrugged off a "challenging" consumer environment to book a 13.7% increase in interim pre-tax profit to GBP8.3m (US$13.4m). Total sales rose 7.5% to GBP145.4m, while UK retail sales climbed 6.1% to GBP127.5m.