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Fashion sales rise at Laura Ashley

Sales at Laura Ashley rose 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.

Laura Ashley said that UK retail sales increased across all categories. UK stores sales were up 7.3% to £95.7m, but down 8.1% on a like for like basis.

Within that, sales of fashion in the UK rose 6.7% like for like, and by 23.9% in total, driven by a stronger product offer and new stores.

However, in the 33 weeks to September 13, total UK retail like-for-like sales were down 11.6%. Total UK retail sales rose 4.3%.

Laura Ashley chairman KP Khoo said: "Once again we have delivered another trading period of higher sales, margins and profit. I am very pleased what we have achieved this against a continuing difficult economic climate."

He added that trading conditions on the high street this year had been extremely challenging with no indication that the economic situation is likely to improve in the short term.

He said: "However, I do believe we are well positioned with our continued focus on operations efficiency, product differentiation and innovation. In addition, I am delighted with the growing success of our e-commerce business and our store realignment programme and I am confident about the prospects of our franchise partners particularly in Asia."

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