August 22, 2019 / 7:03 AM / a month ago

Laura Ashley posts 10 million pound loss as furniture sales sag

(Reuters) - Clothing and furnishing retailer Laura Ashley (ALY.L) swung to an almost 10 million pound pretax loss for the full year ending in June, hit by poor performance of its home furnishings business and a fall in online sales.

FILE PHOTO: People walk past a Laura Ashley store in Kiev, Ukraine, March 30, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

The company posted a loss before tax and exceptional items of 9.8 million pounds, compared with a profit of 5.6 million pounds in the same period a year-ago.

The company, which issued two profit warnings earlier this year, said total UK retail sales fell to 222.9 million pounds from 236 million pounds a year ago, hurt by six store closures and “considerable market uncertainty”.

“The last twelve months have proved to be a difficult trading period for the Group and indeed for the retail sector as a whole,” Chairman Andrew Khoo said in a statement.

He said weak consumer confidence had been one driver of the 10.1% fall in furniture sales, but said the company remained confident of its product range and would introduce more contemporary styles in the months ahead.

The company closed six stores and opened one last year and it plans to open two more and close five to seven in the UK this year.

Named for the Welsh designer who founded the company in the 1950s, Laura Ashley was a favourite of Princess Diana in its 1980s heyday, but has struggled to stay relevant in recent years as its floral, frilled and ruffles-heavy outfits fell out of fashion.

There have been signs of a resurgence in interest in its styles this year, however, and like-for-like sales in its fashion business rose 9.2% in the period.

The company said trading had been in line with management’s expectations for the seven weeks to Aug. 17.

It did not recommend a dividend for the period.

Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar and Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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