Laura Ashley delivers sales boost

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Home furnishings chain Laura Ashley forecast better-than-expected profits despite the impact of Arctic weather and the sluggish economy

Home furnishings chain Laura Ashley has forecast better-than-expected profits despite the impact of Arctic weather and the sluggish economy.

The group, which has 221 stores in the UK and Ireland, said like-for-like sales were up by 2.7% in the 19 weeks to December 11, which is a slowdown from the 6.2% growth in the first half-year to July 31.

Laura Ashley blamed factors outside its control for the weaker sales trend but said efforts to streamline its estate, including the closure of 12 of its less profitable stores and the opening of two new sites, had boosted margins.

The company added: “Despite the current economic uncertainty and adverse weather conditions in the UK, we remain confident that full year trading will be ahead of the board’s expectations.”

Laura Ashley, which also sells fashion, decorating and furniture products, reported growth of 28.7% in internet sales in the 19 week period.

Shares were up 4% as Numis Securities raised its profits forecast from £14.4 million to £15.8 million for the year to the end of January.

Numis analyst Andrew Wade added: “With the key Christmas trading weeks still to come we see further scope for upgrades.”

The company recently reported profits before tax and exceptionals of £10.5 million in the first half of its year, up from £1.1 million a year earlier.

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