After failing to secure a rescue deal with stakeholders, Laura Ashley announced on Monday that 70 of its 147 UK stores will close permanently, putting 721 employees at risk of redundancy.
Documents have been filed to appoint Rob Lewis and Zelf Hussain of PwC as administrators of the company and its subsidiaries, with approval expected by the end of the day. The administrators will seek to find a buyer for the business, which swung to a £14 million loss in 2019.
The remaining 77 UK stores will continue to operate as usual, as well as the online shop. All franchisee and licensee partners are also trading as normal, the company said.
Laura Ashley was in a precarious state before the Covid-19 outbreak, and the global epidemic has certainly made things worse for the 66-year-old fashion and interiors retailer.
Last week, management revealed that the coronavirus crisis has not only had a significant impact on trading, but also thwarted its plans to receive emergency funds from stakeholders.
Shares in the retailer had fallen by 91.8% in the year to date until last Tuesday, when the stock was suspended from trading on the London Stock Exchange.
Speaking about the decision to appoint administrators, Katharine Poulter, CEO, said: “Since my appointment just last month, I have shared my vision for the future of this brand, accompanied with a robust turnaround plan to set the future direction of the company and return Laura Ashley to the great British brand that is known and cherished around the world. The vision also included reconnecting with our traditional values and our strong British heritage and focusing on developing Laura Ashley as a lifestyle brand.
“I remain unwavering in my belief that Laura Ashley can and should retain the place it deserves in the international retail landscape. Unfortunately, we will lose some brilliant people through no fault of their own. However, I remain hopeful there is a buyer out there who shares my vision and can see the enormous potential of this iconic British brand that is known and loved around the world.”
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