British retailer Laura Ashley lost sales and profits in Ireland last year as it failed to take advantage of the spending boom in a market in which it makes almost 10 per cent of its profits. While a turnaround in the fashion and furniture chain’s home market after a long decline led it to declare its first dividend since 1997 last year, accounts just filed for its Irish unit show a deterioration in the same period. Revenues at Laura Ashley ( Ireland ) fell to â‚¬8.98 million in the year to January 28th from â‚¬9.23 million in the previous period, itself down from â‚¬9.47 million a year earlier. Operating profits in the most recent period fell to â‚¬727,567 from â‚¬762,770 and pretax profits fell to â‚¬779,647 from â‚¬823,106.
Although Laura Ashley’s presence here is modest, given its 180 British stores and 210 franchise outlets in 29 international markets, its Irish unit makes a significant contribution to the bottom line. At conversion rates, for example, the operating profit in Ireland of â‚¬727,567 (Â£486,854) amounted to more than 9 per cent of the parent’s operating profit of Â£5.4 million. Laura Ashley struggled for years to find form in its home market, with five chief executives since 1998, when it was taken over by Malaysian United Industries.
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However, current chief executive Lillian Tan has led a revival in a group that has revamped stores and stripped some Â£40 million from its cost base in the last three years. The chain followed its declaration of a dividend for the year to January with an interim profit in the six months to July that was ahead of expectations. Pretax profits of Â£3 million in the first half reversed a Â£200,000 loss in the same period last year.