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Laura Ashley reviews fashion after bad year

Laura Ashley is reviewing “everything” about its fashion department after a disappointing performance marred the group’s otherwise strong full-year growth.

The fashion and homeware business grew total sales 4.5% to £298.8m in the 12 months to January 26, but fashion sales fell 5.6% in the period, with like-for-likes down 4.8%.

Fashion now makes up 19% of the overall business, down from 20% last year.

Chief financial officer and joint chief operating officer Seán Anglim told Drapers: “We’re looking at everything: quality, fit, price, style, colour. We’re talking to customers and using online focus groups and looking at everything internally to address the issues we saw in the second half.”

Laura Ashley is also looking at its pricing strategy to reduce price points on certain items and categories, and bring it in line with the wider market.

Anglim said several factors contributed towards the division’s underperformance: notably mistimed drops, product in autumnal colours during a late summer heatwave, and a lack of seasonal product in the run-up to Christmas.

“We have been as forensic as possible, looking at things on a product-by-product basis, to try and address what went wrong,” he said. “Talking to the customer has become a very important part of our strategy because we really have to understand what the customer wants.”

The retailer had been forced to discount more last year than in previous years, Anglim added, which was a significant factor in driving margins down by 1.9% over the year.

Despite overall falls, ecommerce and international sales were up 17% and 13.3% respectively, and Anglim predicted similar increases for the current financial year.

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