Laura Ashley plans UK store closures, China focus
Laura Ashley is set to reduce its UK store count from 160 to 120 stores as it eyes growth opportunities in Asia, the new chairman of Malayan United Industries (MUI) revealed on Monday.
MUI, which has owned the brand since 1998, has already closed some 40 Laura Ashley stores in the UK since 2015.
But despite the closures, the fashion and home furnishings brand will continue to invest in its high street presence with a plan to expand the remaining stores to showcase the brand and create spaces where customers can get inspired.
"It doesn't really matter if [customers] buy online or offline, we just want them to get inspired,” Andrew Khoo Boo Yeow, the new chairman of MUI, said in an interview with Press Association.
But the company is expected to see some headwinds over the next two years. “It's a challenging environment and it could become more challenging," Khoo said.
Whilst Laura Ashley experienced disappointing Christmas trading figures in 2017, Khoo said clothing sales have been increasing in the UK during the festive period this year. However, the brand’s furniture category have continued to falter.
Moving forward, the business will put greater emphasis on its presence in Asia. “We're moving to Asia in a much bigger way," Khoo told Asian reporters.
"We have a regional office in Singapore, it's a dedicated office of about 10 people and it's focused purely on ecommerce into China.
"Once we get a significant foothold in digital retail in China we can look at the physical stores rollout."
Once one of the world’s most popular clothing brands, Laura Ashley has struggled to stay relevant in a highly competitive environment. The business launched a new digital site this year in an effort to revamp its digital image.
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