Fashion and homewares retailer Laura Ashley today reported total UK sales had increased 7.9 per cent in the first 17 weeks of its present financial year, but like-for-likes had slumped.

The retailer attributed the rise mainly to an increase in selling space – it opened 12 stores and closed two in the UK during the period.

However, the opening of new stores and the tough economic climate has affected existing stores, meaning like-for-like sales were down 7.6 per cent compared with the same period last year.

Laura Ashley’s franchising and licensing sales reported marginal declines, while its mail order and online sales rose 8.1 per cent.

The retailer maintained that pre-tax profit for the year is expected to be broadly in line with brokers’ forecasts. It will continue to focus on its store expansion and realignment programme, improved product offering and improved operational efficiencies.

Laura Ashley has also been stake-building in menswear retailer Moss Bros and now owns almost 10 per cent of the business. Moss Bros was the subject of a potential takeover bid by Icelandic investor Baugur, but this offer was shelved yesterday.

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