Laura Ashley rejigs board to cut costs

Laura Ashley has restructured its UK management team as part of a cost-cutting drive at the iconic British business.

The retailer has created a commercial director role, with responsibility for home and fashion. Incumbent fashion and home directors Jan Ekins and Diane Lee are leaving. Former House of Fraser business manager for fashion accessories Richard Hindley has been appointed to the new post.

Chief financial officer David Cook said Laura Ashley had embarked on a cost-saving programme, but would not quantify the scale of cuts planned.

'This is happening across the company where we can improve efficiencies and save costs. Given the performance of Laura Ashley, this is what shareholders would expect us to do,' he said.

Joint chief operating officer Iain Nairn resigned in June and will not be replaced. His responsibilities were handed to his counterpart Mike Kingsbury.

Ekins spearheaded the revamp of the retailer's serially underperforming clothing offer. A new-look fashion floor was introduced under her guidance and refits are said to be outperforming the company average.

Ekins was offered the enlarged role, but declined and is thought to have a new post elsewhere in prospect.

After years in the doldrums, Laura Ashley appears to be glimpsing a light at the end of the tunnel. In the year to January, it returned to profit.

Laura Ashley's market capitalisation has swollen by nearly 33 per cent over the past three months to£136.2 million, fuelling bid speculation.

Dr Khoo Kay Peng, chairman of owner Malayan United Industries, controls a 58 per cent stake, but said recently he has no plans to take the business private.