Laura Ashley has admitted it got its fashion product offering wrong after reporting a “disappointing” fall in full-year clothing sales this morning.
Fashion like-for-likes dropped 4.8% in the year to January 26, while total sales declined 5.6%.
Laura Ashley finance director Sean Anglim said the retailer “did reasonably well in the first half but we didn’t hit that sweet spot in the second half” in clothing.
Anglim told Retail Week that a focus on dark colours “when the weather was good” hit sales, as well as a narrow range in party wear and occasion wear in the run up to Christmas.
The dip comes after a sustained period of growth in fashion for Laura Ashley. Anglim said the retailer had enjoyed a “really good run” in the last six years, during which time Laura Ashley had averaged a like-for-like uplift of 7.3%.
Anglim said the tough economic environment and unseasonable conditions had also hit performance in the second half, but he said: “We don’t want to blame the weather. There are things we can do. We need to offer more choice.”
He said Laura Ashley is taking action by speaking to customers on everything from product range to price.
Laura Ashley’s other categories all recorded growth. Furniture like-for-likes were up 1.4% while home accessories like-for-likes surged 7.6%.
Anglim said Laura Ashley felt “good” about the overall performance. He said the retailer performed particularly well online and overseas. The retailer began trading online in France during last year.
The retailer has opened a further three Home and Accessories stores after debuting a trial store in London’s Liverpool Street station. St Albans and Canterbury opened in the year, while Windermere opened last month. All cover about 500-600 sq ft and showcase gifting in home furnishing and accessories in fashion.
Laura Ashley also launched click and collect in December as part of its growing and “hugely important” multichannel offer, according to Anglim. “The take-up has taken us by surprise. Customers pick up in store and continue to shop in store,” he said.
Pre-tax profit increased 9.2% to £20.1m in the year while like-for-likes grew 2%. Since year-end, like-for-likes have jumped 2.7%.
Anglim said he was “confident” about the year ahead.