Laura Ashley’s struggling fashion range combined with “unlucky” weather to push the retailer’s first-half profits 11% lower.
The sofas-to-wallpaper group blamed the summer heatwave and spring freeze for the deteriorating performance, with like-for-like sales falling 2.2% in the six months to the end of July and pre-tax profits dropping to £7.4m.
Fashion sales slumped 6.6% on a like-for-like basis during the half, worse than the 4.8% drop seen across the whole of last year. And the retailer said there is more to do to reverse falling clothing sales, with a 1.3% drop in like-for-like group sales in the eight weeks to September 21 driven by more “underperformance” from fashion.
Chief financial officer Sean Anglim said: “We are continually reviewing our fashion collection and trends. Fashion operates on quite long lead times. But we are comfortable we will get it right.”
The retailer, 60 years old this year, earns four-fifths of its sales from home furnishings. Sales of home accessories such as bed linen fell 2.7% on an underlying basis, but sales of furniture remained in positive territory during the half, climbing 0.7% on an underlying basis, and Laura Ashley said it is “encouraged” by growth in this more expensive category.