Laura Ashley to close 40 stores in the UK and focus on China and ecommerce

New York – British clothing and homeware brand Laura Ashley has announced it will close circa 40 stores in the UK. A renewed push in China and the company refocus to leverage its fashion and online business units are also on the cards for the company.

Winds of change are blowing for Laura Ashley. The British clothing and homeware company has seen its Australian subsidiary going into administration for the second time in three years, appointed a new executive chairman, and announced the closure of 40 stores in its home market in barely two weeks.

Truth be told, Laura Ashley has been struggling recently in the UK, joining other local retailers which have been beaten by lower consumer’s confidence and spending power. As a result, the retailer registered a year-on-year pre-tax profits fall. As a point of reference, it is worth recalling that Laura Ashley has already closed some 40 UK stores since 2015, according to data cited by the ‘Yorkshire Post’.

The retailer’s newly appointed executive chairman – who succeeds its father, Khoo Kay Peng after 19 years at the reins – pointed out that although the group’s business in the UK had seen some promising signs in the run-up to Christmas including an uptick in clothing sales, “It’s a challenging environment and it could become more challenging.”

On the upside, the textile group said it was “encouraged” by its performance online, with like-for-like internet sales up 4.1 percent and now accounting for 25 percent of retail revenues.

Laura Ashley’s new chairman looks to China as sets to change the company’s focus

Andrew Khoo Boo Yeow, Laura Ashley’s owner’s newly appointed executive chairman, expects the business to see some tough headwinds across the next two years, reported BBC News.

Advancing the plans for the company in a meeting with Malaysian press earlier in December, Khoo said Laura Ashley’s owner - Malayan United Industries (MUI) - would be restructuring some arms of its business and rationalising assets. Their main goal is to capitalise on faster growth markets such as China.

“We have a regional office in Singapore, it’s a dedicated office of about 10 people and it’s focused purely on ecommerce into China. “Once we get a significant foothold in digital retail in China we can look at the physical stores rollout,” further explained Khoo.

Khoo said that he wanted to see fewer Laura Ashley stores, but that he had plans to expand other stores. "It's more about showcasing the brand," he told the Press Association. "It doesn't really matter if [customers] buy online or offline, we just want them to get inspired.

2018, a tough year for Laura Ashley

This has been a tough year for the retailer, which continues to struggle with the “softer trading environment for the year ended June 30, 2018” and the related “disappointment to report a fall in profits.”

The company is trying to put out many fires at once. Earlier this month Laura Ashley Australia announced it The company is trying to put out many fires at once. Earlier this month Laura Ashley Australia announced it had fallen into administration three years after it left the previous administrators’ hands.

Meanwhile, the company has to convince some critics who say the Laura Ashley brand has failed to stay relevant. Some analysts believe the retailer’s recently launched new digital platform is not up to standard yet.

Photo:Laura Ashley, Winter fashion collection 2018. Official website


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