Laura Ashley has cautioned that full-year profit will fall “below market expectations” following a slump in first-half earnings.

The furniture and fashion retailer saw pre-tax profit plummet 44.8% to £4.3m during the 26 weeks to December 31.

Laura Ashley blamed the steep decline on the fall in the value of the pound following the Brexit vote, which it labelled “the most significant single factor” hindering its performance.

Group sales fell 7.7%, as retail like-for-likes suffered a 0.5% decline.

Laura Ashley said it anticipated full-year profit would come in under consensus as a result of “continued market challenges”.

It marked the latest in a string of profit warnings from the business, having already cautioned on earnings twice during the past six months.

Laura Ashley said trading conditions “continued to be challenging” during the six-month period.

But the retailer hailed its online performance, after ecommerce sales climbed 5.1%.

Laura Ashley will introduce a new digital platform in its second half, which it insisted would further drive online sales.

The business will also ramp up its focus on international growth.

It has signed a new licence partner in Thailand and plans to license the Laura Ashley Hotel concept both in the UK and overseas.

As previously reported by Retail Week, the retailer exited its Japanese bricks-and-mortar business earlier this month following the termination of its agreement with Aeon.

Laura Ashley said it will “continue to develop our international presence and explore new partnership opportunities”, highlighting online growth in China, where it expects to double its selling platforms in the second half.