Laura Ashley has rejigged its fashion operations and is reviewing supplier arrangements after profit plunged in the year to 30 June.
In the company’s latest results, pre-tax profit for the 52-week period fell to £6.3m from £22.8m. However, its previous reporting period ran over 74 weeks.
Chief financial officer and joint chief operating officer Sean Anglim told Drapers the business “didn’t have a great spring”, and that it will now focus on creating “product that is more appropriate for its target customer in terms of style and fabrics”. The business said its target shopper was a 40 year old woman.
Like-for-like fashion sales at the business dropped by 10.4%, with total fashion sales falling by 12.2%. To counter this, Laura Ashley has restructured its fashion team, and all roles have moved to London from Singapore.
Anglim declined to say how many people now work on the fashion team but said around a third of the Singapore-based team has now left the business.
As part of the restructuring, the business also hired Vanessa Page as its new head of fashion, replacing Jo Soh in the role.
Page, who joined in July, previously worked at Country Casuals. Soh left Laura Ashley earlier this month after two years at the business.
“We have changed our design function quite a bit. We are very confident that everything is in place to grow our fashion business and take it in a new direction,” said Anglim.
He added that there were “no plans to cut costs” over the coming year.
Laura Ashley is also reviewing its supplier arrangements to “mitigate” the effect of the weakened pound.
Anglim said: “In a sense, we are lucky that 33% of product comes from the UK, but we also have to source from other parts of the world, particularly in the Eurozone and China, so we have been exposed to the effects of the weakened sterling.
“We are looking very hard at our suppliers to mitigate the impact of the weak pound where we can. We have been, and still are, working with all of them in recent months to get the best deal.”
He did not rule out the possibility of reducing its supplier numbers.
In the meantime Laura Ashley is opening new stores in Leicester and Leeds in the next six months, and closing three stores in the UK to “optimise profitability”.
As at 30 June 2017, the property portfolio in the UK comprised 167 stores, down on 192 at the same point last year.
During the year, Laura Ashley closed 25 UK stores, reducing total selling space by 6.5% to 681,000 sq ft.
Of these closures, 22 were DIY and furniture concessions run by Homebase, which was acquired last year by the Australian Wesfarmers group.