Laura Ashley 'to close further stores in UK'
Written by Hannah McGrath
Laura Ashley is reportedly set to close further stores in the UK a part of a new strategy focussed on Asian markets and digital retail.
The home furnishing and clothing retailer told Press Association of plans to build on 40 earlier closures since 2015 by reducing its number of stores from 160 to 120, as part of a new strategy announced by its owner Malayan United Industries (MUI).
The move was the first shift in strategy revealed by Andrew Khoo, who took over from his father Khoo Kay Peng as chairman of MUI last week.
He told the Press Association: "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."
"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 rollout."
He added that he had confidence in the UK as a market for the long term and that Laura Ashley would continue to invest here. “As long as Laura Ashley stays relevant there's no reason we can't get over this little speed bump.”
A spokeswoman for Laura Ashley responded to the reports saying that there was no timetable for store closures and no list has been prepared.
She added: “Laura Ashley’s new chairman has outlined his vision for the brand, which includes significant expansion in Asia, including opening bricks and mortar stores in China. As part of this vision Laura Ashley will continue to review its store portfolio for the long term.”
In August this year, difficult trading conditions were blamed for Laura Ashley’s annual profits being just £100,000 – with the results suggesting this would continue into the second half of the year.