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Laura Ashley to Close Around 40 UK Stores

Laura Ashley room shot 725 x 500

In yet another blow to British retailing, clothing and home furnishings retailer Laura Ashley is to close a further 40 UK stores, having already closed a similar number since 2015.

The retailer is owned by Malayan United Industries (MUI), which recently announced the retirement of Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Peng, Chairman and as Director of Laura Ashley Holdings PLC.  He has also retired as Executive Chairman of MUI, after four decades at its helm. 

Mr Andrew Khoo Boo Yeow, Non-Executive Director of the Company and current Executive Chairman of MUI, has been appointed by the Laura Ashley Board as their new Non-Executive Chairman with immediate effect.

A report from the Press Association states that store numbers will reduce from 160 to 120, but that the remaining stores would be expanded.  

Mr Khoo said: "It's more about showcasing the brand,"

"It doesn't really matter if [customers] buy online or offline, we just want them to get inspired,"

"It's a challenging environment and it could become more challenging,"

He also confirmed that the company is going to focus on Asian markets, stating that it is  'moving to Asia in a much bigger way".

Mr Khoo added: "We have a regional office in Singapore [that is] 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."

The Laura Ashley brand started in Wales in 1953 and became a leading brand in the 1970s and 1980s.  Critics of the brand say that it has been unable to keep pace with changing consumer trends and has failed to remain relevant.

Poor Christmas trading in 2017 lead to a profit warning which saw share prices drop by 26% and, despite investing in its ecommerce website earlier this year, it is understood that there has been little effect on profits.

In 2013, the company opened its first Laura Ashley branded hotel: The Manor Hotel Elstree in Hertfordshire.  A second hotel - The Belsfield Hotel in the Lake District, Windermere - opened in July 2014.

Source : Insight DIY

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17 December 2018

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