Laura Ashley brand sold to new owners but future of stores remains uncertain

The future of Laura Ashley's 147 high street stores is still undecided despite the retailer being rescued from administration by global advisory, restructuring and investment firm Gordon Brothers.

Laura Ashley has stores across the region
Laura Ashley has stores across the region

Gordon Brothers has acquired Laura Ashley’s global brand, its archives and related intellectual property from administration.

As new owners of the brand, Gordon Brothers said it intends to “place a strong emphasis on building ecommerce, developing more strategic wholesale relationships, and expanding the portfolio of licensees and franchisees globally.”

However, it was considering options such as retaining a streamlined portfolio of Laura Ashley retail stores within the UK and Ireland.

There is a large Laura Ashley store in Vastre Enterprise Park in Newtown as well as stores in Shrewsbury, Telford, Birmingham, Sutton Coldfield and Wolverhampton.

All of Laura Ashley’s high street stores are currently closed and 1,700 staff have been furloughed due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Gordon Brothers said it would also work with Laura Ashley’s existing management to “evaluate several go-to-market strategies” for the business.

The news comes a few weeks after Laura Ashley appointed advisory firm PwC as administrators after failing to secure an emergency funding lifeline amid coronavirus trading concerns.

It resulted in 268 staff across head office and back-office roles being made redundant while a further 1669 store employees were put on furlough due to the lockdown.

Laura Ashley has continued to trade online during the pandemic.

“Whilst we have taken an important step forward in securing the sale of the brand, we continue to explore opportunities to reshape the UK store-based retail and manufacturing businesses and are very grateful for the efforts of the entire team at Laura Ashley in helping us with those discussions,” said Rob Lewis, joint administrator of several of the Laura Ashley group companies in the UK.

Gordon Brothers brands president Ramez Toubassy said: “Laura Ashley is a true giant among British lifestyle brands, possessing a unique ability to span geographies, product categories, and price points.

“We feel humbled and inspired by the responsibility to reignite Mrs Ashley’s original vision while delivering unique and contemporary products to both long-time followers and new customers from around the world.”

Laura Ashley's first shop was opened where she lived in Machynlleth, Powys, in 1961, named Ashley Mountney, and Shrewsbury was home to one of the first stores under the Laura Ashley name in 1970.

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