Laura Ashley full year profit up 14.6%
Laura Ashley has reported a 14.6% rise in its full year pre-tax profit despite the challenges of a "competitive" retail sector.
In the 53 weeks to 31 January, profit was £23.5 million compared to £20.5 million in the previous year.
While like-for-like sales edged up 1.3%, total group sales rose by 3.1% to £303.6 million.
Tan Sri Dr K P Khoo, Laura Ashley chairman, said: “Set against the ongoing challenges of a competitive retail sector, I am pleased to report year on year increases of 3.1% in sales and 14.6% in profit before taxation.
“I am particularly pleased with our strong online growth and the enhancements made to our digital platform. This gives us the ability to showcase our distinctive products and bring our iconic British brand to a broader, worldwide consumer base.”
During the year, Laura Ashley opened three new UK stores and closed seven. This meant that total selling space fell by 3.2% to 761,000 square feet.
Online sales grew by 8.6% year-on-year with 17.8% of UK retail sales generated through digital platforms. Laura Ashley now operates a fully translated French site and also delivers its full product range to Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland. A fully translated German site will be launched later this year.
Total furniture sales decreased by 0.3% while like-for-like sales in the category rose by 0.5%. The company said it had seen particular success in bedroom furniture, mattresses and with its newer, wooden furniture ranges.
Meanwhile, fashion sales fell by 2.8% on total basis and by 0.1% on a like-for-like basis. Laura Ashley said: “Our fashion product continues to receive very positive feedback from our customers despite its flat, year-on-year performance. We are continuing to review quality, price, style and fit, and are encouraged by responses to our collections due to be in store later this year.”
Looking at current trading, the company said it had achieved like-for-like sales growth of 3% in the first two months of the new financial year. It added: “Whilst the consumer markets in which the group operates face a number of challenges, we are encouraged by this growth and believe that we can maintain this for the foreseeable future.”
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