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Laura Ashley seeks £15m lifeline

Lifestyle retailer Laura Ashley is looking to lenders for an emergency £15m lifeline to keep the business afloat and save 2,700 jobs.

Laura Ashley has announced it is in “advanced discussions” with a third-party lender to provide £15m investment.

It has been reported that this third-party lender is Hilco Capital, the former owner of record store HMV. Laura Ashley declined to comment. 

Laura Ashley said that if it is unable to secure funding by the end of March, it “will need to consider all appropriate options” to satisfy its ongoing working capital requirements and turnaround plan. 

The retailer has confirmed its biggest shareholder, MUI Asia is “continuing to actively consider the provision of an additional £10m facility” to support the turnaround. 

Sales are now ahead of expectations after losses before tax at the retailer widened by 166% to £4m for the six months to 31 December 2019.

During the six weeks to 7 March, total sales were 27.7% ahead of the same period last year, and gross profit was 22% up year on year. 

Laura Ashley said it “has not yet seen a significant financial impact from Covid-19”, however, it “believes it has the potential to negatively influence future trading as a result of reduced footfall and continues to monitor the situation closely”.

New CEO Katherine Poulter, told Drapers in February that the heritage brand will return to its archives to drive growth. 

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