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Laura Ashley set for further international expansion

Laura Ashley is expanding into new European territories online, as rising ecommerce sales spur a boost in overall profits.

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Laura Ashley

Joint chief financial officer and chief operating officer for Laura Ashley, Sean Anglim, said the retailer is expanding its ecommerce business to Hungary and the Czech Republic for the first time in the next two months. 

Online sales at Laura Ashley were up 15.7% to £73.5m, for the 74 weeks to 30 June. 

The business already operates online in several European countries including France, Belgium and Austria.

The firm also said is it is to open a website in China via online operator Tmall, owned by Alibaba, and will also begin selling clothing in the first Chinese House of Fraser store, which will open in Nanjing this autumn.

In March Laura Ashley opened its first two concessions with House of Fraser in the Birmingham and Epsom branches, and depending on how these two branches perform, Anglim said Laura Ashley was keen to roll out more concessions in the UK. 

Total group sales grew from £303.6m in 2015 to £400.9m for the year, with profit before tax and exceptional items also up to £25.8m, compared to £22.9m in 2015.

Anglim said: “Online has been a big success story for us in the kind of growth we’ve seen. The website has improved dramatically this year in terms of the navigation, the ease of shopping, the quality of imagery, everything that we’ve done really.”

Anglim admitted that fashion was still a challenging area for Laura Ashley in the UK, with overall sales down 3.9%. However, like-for-like fashion sales increased 2.2% for the year following the closure of 18 Laura Ashley home and fashion stores during the period. 

“The top line has dropped a little but sales have actually been maintained, which we’re happy with. We’ve focused on what we’re good at which is design, quality and hopefully giving the customer what they like,” said Anglim.

“I think that’s why we’ve seen like-for-like growth. Fashion has seen growth both in store and online.”

In March Laura Ashley opened its first two concessions with House of Fraser in the Birmingham and Epsom branches, and depending on how these two branches perform, Anglim said Laura Ashley was keen to roll out more concessions.

 

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