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Fashion boosts Laura Ashley sales

UK fashion sales helped to boost overall performance at Laura Ashley, rising 6.7% like-for-like, and by 23.9% in total for the 26 weeks to July 26.

Chief executive Lillian Tan said that an improved product offer and 20 new store openings during the period had driven the improvement in fashion performance, particularly on knitwear and dresses.

She added: “Last year, we had fashion in 110 of our stores, now we have it in 124 shops and we plan to have fashion in most stores that are appropriate.”

Online sales at the fashion-to- homewares chain Laura Ashley overtook mail order sales for the first time. Direct sales, which include internet and mail order sales, were up 8.6% for the 26 weeks to July 26. Mail order sales dropped 15% while sales via the internet rose 43%.

Total sales at the group were up 5.5% to £120.2m for the 26 weeks to July 26. Profit before tax and exceptional items was up 13% to £4.5m.

Including exceptional gains, profit before tax at Laura Ashley for the period decreased by 27% to £4.7m. The exceptional gain of £2.4m was due to a large credit as a result of a pension transfer value exercise.

Total UK stores sales were up 7.3% to £95.7m, but were down 8.1% on a like-for-like basis.For the 33 weeks to September 13, total UK retail like-for-like sales fell 11.6%. Total UK retail sales rose 4.3%.

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