The fashion and home furnishings retailers Laura Ashley is to close around 40 stores in the UK as it plans to expand its presence in China.
The retailer, owned by Malayan United Industries, has already closed some 40 UK stores since 2015 and will now drop from 160 to 120 in a move that Andrew Khoo Boo Yeow, MUI’s executive chairman, says will ‘showcase the brand.’
He also added that the remaining stores will be expanded. This could be in line with the brand showcase strategy that the remaining stores will now adopt. Earlier this year, Khoo said that he expected the business to see some tough headwinds across the next two years.
He also said MUI would be restructuring some arms of the business and rationalising assets.
“It’s more about showcasing the brand,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter if customers buy online or offline, we just want them to get inspired. It’s a challenging environment and it could become more challenging.”
Khoo also noted that the brand was “moving to Asia in a much bigger way.”
“We have a regional office in Singapore that is focused purely on ecommerce into China. Once we get a significant foothold in digital retail in China, we can look at the physical stores roll out.”
Originally based in Wales, Laura Ashley grew from a small factory in Carno to become one of the world’s leading clothing brands in the 1970s and 1980s.
At the beginning of this year, Laura Ashley issued a profit warning after reporting disappointing 2017 Christmas trading figures.
The first Laura Ashley branded hotel was opened in 2013. The firm currently has two: Laura Ashley The Manor in Elstree and Laura Ashley The Belsfield in the Lake District.