Laura Ashley has issued a profit warning after suffering in the “volatile economic climate”.

Like-for-like store sales fell 6.2 per cent in the 53 weeks to January 31. In the same period, total UK store sales jumped 10.8 per cent.

The retailer said: “Since December, the continued deterioration of the UK economy, its impact on the retail sector and consumer confidence, the weakness of sterling and increased promotional activity have resulted in additional pressure on gross margins.

"As a consequence, it is anticipated that the profit before taxation and exceptional items for the year ended January 31, 2009 will be in the region of£9m, lower than current market expectations.”

However, internet sales rocketed 65.4 per cent.

Laura Ashley said it has a “strong” balance sheet and is “taking the right actions by continuing to focus on increasing revenue generation through our various channels, improving operational efficiencies, differentiating our product offering and continuing to invest in our store realignment programme subject to our stringent property selection criteria”.

Laura Ashley opened 29 stores and closed 9 during the year. It now trades from 228 shops in the UK. It also trades from 223 franchised stores internationally and said its partners are “committed to open more over the coming year and years ahead”.

The retailer added: “In line with the general economy, we expect the coming year to remain challenging and unpredictable with economic uncertainty impacting consumer confidence and spending patterns.”

Laura Ashley will announce results for the year ended January 3 at the end of March.