Fashion to homewares retailer stays upright by tightening its belt
Strong gross margins and cost savings have offset poor sales at Laura Ashley.

The group said profit before tax and exceptionals for the 52 weeks to January 29 was up 55 per cent to£4.8 million. Total group sales for the year shrank by 11.4 per cent to£237.5 million. Total UK sales were down 15.4 per cent and UK like-for-like sales were also down 10.2 per cent.

The retailer said its UK portfolio was reduced by a net 16 stores, bringing the total to 184. It expects to open a further 15 stores over the next 12 months.

Laura Ashley chief executive officer Lillian Tan said: 'Laura Ashley's improved performance in 2004 is the result of management's focus on improving gross margin rate and on reducing costs in all areas of the business. We now have a cost base that is aligned with the current scale of our business, and our initiative to improve our retail portfolio continues. Retail conditions in the UK remain difficult.'