Laura Ashley to shut stores, cut hundreds of jobs

FILE PHOTO: A Laura Ashley store in Windsor is pictured after they filed for Administration while the number of coronavirus cases grow around the world. Windsor, Britain, March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Paul Childs/File Photo

(Reuters) - Laura Ashley Holdings ALY.L said on Monday it will permanently shut 70 stores and cut hundreds of jobs as the struggling fashion retailer appointed administrators following a damaging blow to its business from the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic has compounded challenges faced by British retailers. Laura Ashley, a favourite of late Princess Diana in its 1980s heyday, has seen sales fall, store closures and weakness at its home furnishings business.

The company said the store closures could affect 721 jobs, and added that its initial focus will be to look for potential buyers.

“I remain hopeful there is a buyer out there who shares my vision and can see the enormous potential of this iconic British brand,” said Chief Executive Officer Katharine Poulter, who was appointed to the top job earlier this year with hopes of reviving the brand.

The company, which had 2,773 employees as of June 2019 according to Refinitiv Eikon data, said it will continue to trade the rest of its 77 UK stores and purchases will continue to be accessible online.

The clothing and furnishing retailer is the latest in a list of brands once considered the mainstay of the British shopping scene to go under. House of Fraser and department store chain Debenhams have also been placed in administration.

Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty