It says much about the scale of the crisis facing Laura Ashley that, less than two months after joining the business, Katharine Poulter’s accession to the role of chief executive has been fast-tracked.
Poulter only joined the embattled retailer at the start of January as chief operating officer, albeit with a succession plan seemingly in place. By the end of the same month, it was confirmed that the former B&Q and Wilko director would succeed Kwan Cheong Ng as CEO on 1 May.
That all changed this week when the retailer’s chair Andrew Khoo reported falling sales and a deepening of Laura Ashley’s losses in its interim results. As a consequence, Poulter stepped up with immediate effect.
There are many reasons for Laura Ashley’s plight – some of them specific to the business, others affecting the entire sector. It was notable that Khoo chose to focus on the latter during his update to the market with higher costs, Brexit uncertainty and increases in the minimum wage and business rates all cited as contributing factors.
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