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New storefit is great white hope for Laura Ashley's youth appeal

Classic womenswear chain Laura Ashley is to trial a stark new shopfit as part of a move to target younger customers.

After launching its new Archive collection in April - inspired by its archive of prints and styles from across the decades - the business is now attracting shoppers aged 25 and above, significantly younger than its traditional 35- to 55-year-old target market.

"We need to spread our wings a little," said creative director David Harris. "We don't want to alienate our older customers because they still have a strong presence, but they are not shopping with us as much as before."

Harris said that a positive reaction to the "pure white room" concept used to launch the Archive range had inspired his team to create the new store environment.

The storefit, described as having a "smarter and cleaner" presentation, was due to be unveiled at a new central London store later this year. However, Laura Ashley failed to acquire the site and is yet to find a suitable alternative.

"The shopfit we've had until now has worked, but it's become a bit staid," said Harris. He added that he was also looking at whether stores should be better segmented for different types of customer.

The retailer trialled a boutique-style concept in several locations two years ago. Some of the shops, particularly those in London, experienced sales uplifts of 30% as a result, said Harris.

The company, which also sells home furnishings, recorded its highest pre-tax profits in a decade for the year to January 27, with figures doubling to £12.2 million against sales of £225m. Like-for-like UK fashion sales rose by 25.9%, compared with a decline of 25% last year.

The retailer has also introduced contemporary tables and new mannequins to its stores to improve the Archive environment.

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