Fashion and homewares group Laura Ashley has posted record profits and is confident about prospects despite the punishing trading environment.
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The retailer, which has 217 UK stores, reported group pre-tax profit excluding exceptionals up 91% to £19.3m on sales 6.2% ahead to £285m in the year to January 29.
However, since the beginning of February like-for-likes have slid.
Laura Ashley made gains in all its main categories during the period. Furniture led the way with a 7.2% sales advance, or 8.9% like-for-like. Home accessories rose 3.1% and 4% like-for-like.
Decorating sales advanced 5.3%, equating to a 6.3% like-for-like improvement and fashion was up 2.6%, or 1.7% like-for-like.
In the core UK market total retail sales climbed 5.3% to £256.6m and were ahead 5.6% like-for-like.
Laura Ahsley chairman Tan Sri Dr KP Khoo said he was delighted with the performance but that conditions are challenging. In the eight weeks to March 26, like-for-likes fell 4.2%.
He said: “Since the beginning of February we have seen a decline in our performance which we attribute to a general weakening in the consumer economy.
“We believe that our strong product offer and brand, robust balance sheet and continued operational efficiencies give us a sound base to face the tough outlook ahead.”