UK markets closed

Laura Ashley CEO retires early as losses deepen at troubled retailer

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Laura Ashley saw its losses deepen. (Laura Ashley)

The CEO of Laura Ashley (ALY.L) has retired earlier than planned as the troubled retailer revealed its losses had more than doubled in the second half of last year.

The clothes and home furnishings brand has been battling to stay afloat, after falling sales left the company unable to borrow as much as expected.

It said it had secured a funding lifeline on Wednesday after crisis talks with its major bank lender Wells Fargo (WFC). It secured permission to use a loan to fund its day-to-day operations.

It revealed on Thursday its pre-tax losses excluding “exceptional” items had widened to £4m ($5.2m) in the 26 weeks to the end of 2019, compared with £1.5m the previous year. Its sales also slid from £122.9m in the second half of 2018 to £109.6m.

In a statement alongside the interim report it confirmed its CEO Kwan Cheong Ng would leave his post immediately. He had been due to retire at the end of April. Its share price leapt on the announcement, trading 16.5% higher in morning trading in London.

Read more: Laura Ashley in crisis funding talks as sales dive

Katharine Poulter, the company’s current chief operating officer, will replace him “with immediate effect,” the company confirmed. She only recently joined the company, leading a strategic review.

Poulter has previously worked at Marks and Spencer, Habitat, Kingfisher and Wilko.

Andrew Khoo, Laura Ashley’s chairman, said: "There have been market challenges for our business which have impacted these results during the current financial year.

“The decline in total revenue was due to the market headwinds and weaker consumer spending during the period, which led to a decline in sales of bigger ticket items.”

He added: “We have further to go but are confident we now have the right leadership team and building blocks in place.”