Homewares and fashion retailer Laura Ashley has revealed its profit before tax and exceptionals has increased 13 per cent to £4.5 million, but like-for-likes have slipped.

In the 26 weeks to July 26, 2008, like-for-like sales across all categories fell 8.1 per cent, although total sales climbed 7.3 per cent.

Furniture sales were worst hit in the 26 week period, with a 13.2 per cent fall in like-for-likes and a 2 per cent drop in total sales.

Fashion performed better, with a 6.7 per cent uplift in like for likes and a 23.9 per cent hike in total sales.

Home accessories saw a 13.3 per cent drop in like for likes, and decorating was down 8.3 per cent.

In the same period its online sales rocketed 43 per cent, overtaking sales in mail order for the first time. Mail order sales fell 15 per cent.

Gross margins increased by 1 percentage point.

Home accessories accounts for 28 per cent of Laura Ashley's business; furniture 26 per cent; decorating 24 per cent; and fashion 22 per cent.

Laura Ashley chairman of K P Khoo said: “Once again we have delivered another trading period of higher sales, margins and profit. I am very pleased that we have achieved this against a continuing difficult economic climate. Trading conditions on the high street this year have been extremely challenging, with no indication that the economic situation is likely to improve in the short-term. However, I do believe we are well positioned with our continued focus on operational efficiency, product differentiation and innovation.”

Reporting on current trading, the retailer said that in the 33 weeks to September 13, like-for-like sales were down 11.6 per cent.