UK clothing and furnishing retailer Laura Ashley saw pre-tax losses of £4m (€4.77m, $5.15m) – more than double in the first half of the year.
It blamed a weak demand for home furnishings as cautious consumers waited for the Brexit stagnation to end. “We have seen a combination of factors impact our results,” said chairman Andrew Khoo, “ranging from higher costs largely driven by uncertainty, minimum wages and business rates increases.”
The company said disruption caused by the change in its Japanese franchise partner to Itochu Corporation also had an impact.
Total group sales fell by 10.8 per cent to £109.6m, compared to the same period in 2018.
Sales were also flat for the first seven weeks this year. However, under new CEO Katharine Poulter, previously its COO, Laura Ashley is examining options for international expansion, specifically in Asia.
Laura Ashley shares were up 16 per cent at 11am GMT, despite the losses, due mainly to it securing a £20m loan with US bank Wells Fargo.
Many British retailers have run into trouble in recent years due to falling sales leading to store closures. Following a strategic review last year, Laura Ashlel has a positive outlook. “The management team is encouraged by the early signs of the turnaround strategy,” it said in a statement.
That optimism is borne out by the latest UK retail figures which show a rise of 0.9 per cent in January after a 0.5 per cent fall in December.