• H1 underlying pre-tax profit up 28% to GBP7.3m
  • Group sales up 0.1% to GBP135.3m
  • UK retail sales dip 1.1% to GBP120.1m

Fashion and homeware retailer Laura Ashley recorded a 28% hike in first-half profit, buoyed by new apparel ranges and a 3.5% rise in UK like-for-like sales.

UK retail sales were impacted by the closure of under-performing stores, but fashion sales were up 1.4% in the six months to 30 July, with like-for-likes rising 5.2%.

Meanwhile, e-commerce revenues increased by 9.2% and franchise revenues were up 13.4%.

Laura Ashley highlighted the creation of four fashion sub-brands: Weekend, Occasion Wear, Essentials and Archive, which it said “have helped give definition to our ranges and drive sales”.

The company added: “Expansion of and innovation in our ranges have also helped us increase turnover.

“In February 2011, we launched a new range of girlswear (ages 2-8). It is being sold in 41 stores and online. The range remains small at present but has had very positive feedback.”

Like-for-like sales had maintained their growth levels in the first five weeks of the second half, Laura Ashley said, adding: “While the consumer environment continues to be uncertain, we remain confident for the remainder of the year.”

Describing the results as “pleasing”, company chairman Tan Sri Dr K P Khoo said: “These results show that our multi-channel and international strategies are working well.”