Poor online performance and underperforming homeware have been blamed for crumbling profits at heritage lifestyle retailer Laura Ashley, which announced a statutory loss before tax of £14.3m for the 52 weeks to 30 June 2019, down from a profit of £100,000 in 2018.
Total group sales fell by 9.6% to £232.5m. Although like-for-like fashion sales rose by 9.2%, attributed to improved design, online revenues took a hit, falling by 14.2% to £51.2m.
Chairman Andrew Khoo noted that the dip in online sales came following a replatforming exercise in November 2018, which had adversely impacted its performance.
He also noted that an underperforming home furnishings department was to blame for the falling sales figures: “The last twelve months have proved to be a difficult trading period for the group and indeed for the retail sector as a whole. We continue to invest in our website and are working with our online service providers to ensure that it is optimised to deliver an enhanced customer experience and to achieve the desired growth.”
The business also announced a new licensing agreement for the Chinese market, as well as an increased focus on the Australian market. Laura Ashley’s debut store in the territory is set to open in Melbourne in 2020.
Laura Ashley is also developing its hospitality business and currently runs nine tea rooms and two hotels.