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Laura Ashley will permanently close 70 stores resulting in 721 job losses as administrators move to take over the company.

The British clothing and homewares retailer last week announced its intention to appoint administrators after the coronavirus outbreak resulted in an  “immediate and significant impact on trading,” offsetting a 24% year-on-year improvement in business performance for the seven weeks to 13 March.

The company has been struggling with falling sales and declining profits for some time now. In August it swung to a full-year loss, and last month reported a 10.8% drop in total group sales to GBP109.6m for the 26 weeks to 31 December, blaming market headwinds and weaker consumer spending.

In a bourse disclosure today (23 March), it said its application to appoint Rob Lewis and Zelf Hussain of PwC as administrators of the company is expected to be approved over the course of the day. But 70 of its stores will close permanently. Its remaining 77 stores will be open as normal and purchases will continue to be accessible online.

CEO Katharine Poulter said: “Since my appointment just last month, I have shared my vision for the future of this brand, accompanied with a robust turnaround plan to set the future direction of the company and return Laura Ashley to the great British brand that is known and cherished around the world. The vision also included reconnecting with our traditional values and our strong British heritage and focusing on developing Laura Ashley as a lifestyle brand.

“I remain unwavering in my belief that Laura Ashley can and should retain the place it deserves in the international retail landscape. Unfortunately, we will lose some brilliant people through no fault of their own. However, I remain hopeful there is a buyer out there who shares my vision and can see the enormous potential of this iconic British brand that is known and loved around the world.”

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By GlobalData