Laura Ashley announces 40 UK store closures

Laura Ashley has announced plans to close 40 stores in the UK, focusing instead on growth in Asia.

The home furnishings company is the latest group to struggle amid the difficult trading environments, with plans to shut around a quarter of UK outlets.

The group is owned by Malaysian United Industries (MUI), who’s new chairman Andrew Khoo said the “challenging environment” in the UK was hitting Laura Ashley.

“The direction I want to go is to have not so many stores, but maybe the ones we have could be larger. It’s more about showcasing the brand. It doesn’t really matter if they buy online or offline, we just want them to get inspired,” he said.

“We’re moving to Asia in a much bigger way. We have a regional office in Singapore, it’s a dedicated office of about 10 people and it’s focused purely on e-commerce into China.”

“Once we get a significant foothold in digital retail in China we can look at the physical stores roll out,” he added.

“It’s a challenging environment and it could become more challenging.”

“My long-term view of the UK is I have confidence in the UK and we will continue to invest in the UK. As long as Laura Ashley stays relevant there’s no reason we can’t get over this little speed bump.”

The retailer has struggled alongside groups New Look, Marks & Spencer (LON: MKS), House of Fraser and Carpetright (LON: CPR) who are also all closing stores with CVAs. Laura Ashley issued its third profit warning in 12 months in February. 

In other market news, Monday has seen Asos (LON: ASC) shares fall after a profit warning and shares in H&M (STO: HM-B) fall by almost 10% despite a rise in sales. 

When markets opened on Monday, shares in Laura Ashley (LON: ALY) tumbled by 7% but have since recovered and are now trading +15.74% (1455GMT).

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Safiya focuses on business and political stories for UK Investor Magazine. Her interests include international development, travel and politics.