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Laura Ashley posts profits jump

First half profits at fashion and homewares retailer Laura Ashley jumped 13.7% to £8.3m driven by its multi-channel strategy and a differentiated product range.

Total UK retail sales rose by 6.1% to £127.5m over the period to July 28, while total group sales increased by 7.5% to £145.4m. UK like-for-like sales increased by 3.9% and e-commerce revenues leaped 21.4% to £20.4m. However fashion sales were down 1.2%.

Gross margin fell by 2.5% however, as a result of the despatch in the first quarter of product ordered during the January Sale and from improved customer offers.

The retailer, which has 211 UK stores and 263 franchised stores in 29 territories, opened and closed one store in the UK over the period, and added two in Russia. There were further openings in Japan, Taiwan and Australia. Laura Ashley also launched a smartphone website over the period, with a free app for Apple and Android users.

Laura Ashley chairman Tan Sri Dr K P Khoo, said: “Our multichannel and international strategies have continued to develop, increase and add significant value to our business, wth the website now including extra functionality that has significantly enhanced our customer shopping experience.”

The retailer said that sales momentum has been maintained into the second half. UK like-for-likes rose 4.2% in the 32 weeks to September 8. Despite being “mindful” of the broader consumer environment, Laura Ashley expects progress could be maintained.

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