Belfast Telegraph

Laura Ashley profits slump as sales remain under pressure

The group saw statutory annual pre-tax profits tumble to £100,000 from £6.3 million the previous year.

Fashion and homeware retailer Laura Ashley has seen annual profits crash to just £100,000 following a sales slide and hefty writedowns on a property sold in Singapore.

The group, which owns 160 stores across the UK, saw statutory pre-tax profits tumble from £6.3 million the previous year as retail like-for-like sales slid 0.4% in “difficult” trading.

The result was also dragged lower by a £4.7 million hit on the sale of the Singapore property, which had originally been bought to become its Asian headquarters as part of plans to expand into the region.

Profits also dropped sharply on an underlying basis, down a third at £5.6 million for the year to June 30, against £8.4 million the previous year.

Laura Ashley chairman Khoo Kay Peng said: “As set out at the time of the interim results, the trading environment for the first half of the year was challenging and the board expected these difficult trading conditions to continue into the second half of the year.

“This proved to be the case and, given the softer trading environment for the year ended June 30 2018, we are disappointed to report a fall in profits.”

UK sales dropped 6.3% to £236 million over the year amid uncertainty in the market and the closure of stores.

Laura Ashley opened one store and shut eight across the UK over the year and revealed it plans to close another five in the year ahead, with two new outlets opened.

It said furniture sales were knocked in particular by weak consumer confidence, falling 4.1% on a like-for-like basis as shoppers put off buying expensive items, such as sofas and beds.

But the group said it was “encouraged” by its performance online, with like-for-like internet sales up 4.1% and now accounting for 25% of retail revenues.

Its fashion division was also a bright spot, with comparable sales lifting 9.7% in an “extremely competitive sector”.

Laura Ashley said it was looking to expand its new hotel venture, with plans for more hotels across the UK and internationally after the success of its franchised hotel in the Lake District, The Belsfield.

It will also add to its fledgling tea rooms chain, with two more due to be added in October after the first was launched in Solihull in June last year.

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.

Popular