Laura Ashley shakes up clothing after reshuffle

Laura Ashley aims to reinvigorate sales at its flagging clothing business, after creating two new fashion posts - commercial director and product director.

Joint chief operating officer Iain Nairn said the fashion offer 'wasn't where we wanted to be', and commercial director of fashion Jan Ekins and product director Alistair Blair would bring a more design-led approach, paying attention to quality and fit.

Nairn said: 'We have a team of highly-motivated individuals in place. We have seen some improvements in this season's collection and, with 2 per cent like-for-like growth, there is lots more opportunity.'

The retailer's UK home furnishings business continues to outperform fashion and delivered like-for-like growth of 9 per cent in the 26 weeks to July, as new high street and edge-of-town stores came on stream.

Nairn said the 31-strong chain of home standalones was performing well and he would look to roll out more next year. 'There are between 50 and 70 locations we can aim for, but the key issue is location - we don't go for out-of-town retail parks.'

The retailer's retreat from Europe is expected to be complete by January, but Nairn looked forward to the royalty stream a franchise approach would generate.

For the first half, group turnover fell from£140 million last time to£137.9 million. The group delivered a pre-tax loss of£1 million, of which£700,000 was attributable to its European exit. Overall, retail like for likes were up 2 per cent.