13 September 2012 10:14
Laura Ashley has said that its "dedication to improving the customer experience, multi-channel strategy and differentiated product offer" were key to a 13.7% increase in pre-tax profits at the chain, despite a challenging period.
UK like-for-like sales rose 3.9% following a strong performance in home accessories, whilst the firm's fashion division, which makes up a fifth of its UK sales, was flat.
The furniture division represents 30% of UK sales but it fared less well with sales down 0.3% on a like-for-like basis. Decorating products such as curtains, wallpaper and paint, however, jumped 5.7%.
The London-based firm, which makes around 40% of its products in the UK, said that it was aiming to continue its expansion plans in e-retail and new markets, having opened stores in Russia, Japan, Taiwan and Australia in the first half of the year.
It will allow customers to reserve items to collect in stores later this year, after enjoying a 21.4% surge in online sales during the half-year.
Laura Ashley has 211 stores across the UK, the same as last year, and 263 franchised stores overseas.
The company also has a 49-bed hotel in Hertfordshire, acquired last November, which it aims to reopen before the end of the year.
Commenting on the results, Tan Sri Dr. K P Khoo, Chairman, said: "In a sector that continued to see challenges through the period, we are very pleased to report a 13.7% increase in profit before taxation (excluding exceptional items) and a UK like-for-like sales growth of 3.9%. This growth is a result of our dedication to improving the customer experience, our multi-channel strategy and differentiated product offer.
"Our multi-channel and international strategies have continued to develop, increase and add significant value to our business, with the website now including extra functionality that has significantly enhanced our customer shopping experience. As a British brand, we are very proud that over 40% of our sales come from product manufactured in the UK.
"As we enter the second half of the year, we have seen the momentum of the first half of the year maintained with UK like-for-like sales growth of 4.2% for the 32 weeks to September 8th 2012. While we remain mindful of the broader consumer environment and its challenges, we are confident that this progress can be maintained."