FLORAL DEATHWATCH: Laura Ashley sales fall
Laura Ashley, with its chintzy homewares and flowery clothing, has been struggling– and posted a 0.4% fall in like for like sales in 2013. Profits were up by 2% to £20.5m, but total sales fell by 1.4% to £294.5m.
Laura Ashley’s chairman mumbled something about the retail environment being ‘particularly challenging’, adding: ‘We are confident that the quality of our product ranges, the enduring appeal of our great British brand and the loyalty of our many worldwide customers will enable us to make further progress in growing the business.’
But in Blighty, could Brits have fallen out of love with this most British of brands? Are we simply tiring of swags, tails, ruches and cushions that cost a bloody fortune? After all, we’ve got John Lewis now. And Laura Ashley is something of an ageing Brit relic, like the Emmanuels and Jane Asher and Hannah Gordon from Watercolour Challenge. In fact, their range of middle aged florals makes Cath Kidston looks like a rebellious polka-dot punk upstart.
However, there’s been a 4.2% upturn in sales abroad, which means that the world still loves a bit of Downton-esque English country garden décor. And despite their losses, sales in the summer of 2013 were higher than they had been since 2006. So maybe there’s life in the old girl yet.
Not the actual Laura Ashley, though. She fell down the stairs and died in 1985.