Blog: Leonie BarrieLaura Ashley stores fetch 2 euros

Leonie Barrie | 2 September 2003

A couple of years ago British clothing and furnishings retailer Laura Ashley was talking about Europe as a potential route for expansion. Yesterday it came one step closer to turning its back on the continent after selling off its 11 Benelux stores for the nominal sum of 2 euros. And by the end of the year it hopes to have pulled out of Europe completely.

The change in strategy says a lot about the volatility being experienced in retailing right now. The store group, which reported a full-year loss of £14.1 million in the year to January 2003, has been fighting a losing battle against economic downturn, poorly targeted products, low sales, high running costs and a dearth of tourist traffic.

Offloading its European business is widely seen as a positive move – but means the pressure will now revert to Laura Ashley’s 206-store UK business and, in particular, the poorly performing clothing division. This would be a challenge at the best of times, but all eyes will now be on the firm’s two chief executives – appointed by parent Malayan United Industries – who have already been criticised for their lack of experience in running a UK fashion retailer.

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