Sales at Laura Ashley have fallen over the first six months of the year, with fashion once again the major factor.
The lifestyle retailer saw group sales decline 5.6% to £137.3m for the 26 weeks to July 27, down from £145.4m. Like-for-likes dropped 2.2% and even ecommerce fell 3.7%.
Despite gross margin improvement of 1.3%, underlying profit before tax, excluding exceptional items, fell £500,000 to £7.8m.
Fashion was the worst performing department at the retailer, with sales down 6.9% compared with the same period last year and like-for-likes down 6.6%.
The business described this performance, which comes on the back of full year declines reported in April, as “disappointing” but said it was “focused on getting back to like for like growth with good value, good quality and design led products”.
Chairman Tan Sri Dr. K P Khoo added: ““The first half of 2013 has proved to be a challenging one for us. A period of prolonged cold weather impacted fashion sales as customers continued to wear winter clothing and did not buy into spring ranges later in the season.
“The subsequent switch into a long spell of very hot weather, particularly throughout July, had a negative impact on home furnishing sales. This contributed to an overall like for like reduction in retail sales of 2.2% and a profit fall (before exceptional items) of £0.5m to £7.8m.”
However Khoo said he was “confident in both the quality of our product ranges and the underlying strength of our brand”, and hopeful of a better end to the year, despite acknowledging that like-for-likes for the eight weeks to September 21 are down 1.3% “reflecting continued underperformance of the fashion category”.