Laura Ashley looks for improved fashion offer

Laura Ashley is looking to draw the curtain on a disastrous financial performance by revamping its clothing offer to match its resurgence in the home furnishings market.

Executive director for product Mike Kingsbury said appointments on the creative and commercial side would boost the fashion division. 'We are the original lifestyle brand, and have a big opportunity on the fashion side,' he said.

Kingsbury said the retailer wanted to create more of a 'lifestyle proposition' with its offer. The furniture range, which draws heavily on the classic Laura Ashley floral and print archive, offered the retailer a glimmer of hope in the year to January 25, with sales up 17 per cent and like-for-likes climbing 9 per cent in the UK for the division. By comparison, UK clothing sales fell by 1 per cent, with flat like-for-likes. The group reported a pre-tax loss of£14.1 million.

Seymour Pierce analyst Richard Ratner said Laura Ashley needed to transplant the unique selling point of its furniture into fashion: 'It makes a lot of sense for them to go a bit more aspirational, rather than try to be all things to all people,' he said. 'It remains to be seen if they can succeed though - they've had three or four goes at this now.'

Last week's results were overshadowed by the resignation of chief executive KC Ng. The board has appointed lawyer and former Attorney General of Malaysia Ainum Mohd-Saaid and accountant Rebecca Navarednam as joint chief executives.