PwC insolvency practitioners Robert Lewis and Zelf Hussain have been appointed administrators of high street chain Laura Ashley.
The fashion retailer had warned last week that was expecting to appoint administrators, citing the coronavirus outbreak as a key factor in its collapse.
For the seven weeks up to March 13, trading for the Laura Ashley business improved by 24 percent year-on-year and its directors said they were encouraged by its performance. However, it said the Covid-19 outbreak has had “an immediate and significant impact on trading”, with conditions unlikely to improve in the short-term.
Efforts were made by company directors to secure third-party debt funding, it said last week, but, based on its revised cashflow forecasts, it did not expect the additional funding will arrive in time.
As a result, 70 UK stores will be closed permanently today (March 23, 2020) and potentially 721 employees affected.
The company will continue to trade the remaining 77 UK stores, which will be open as normal and purchases will continue to be accessible online. Franchisee and licensee partners also continue to trade as normal.
The initial focus of the administrators will be to engage with parties who are interested in acquiring Katharine Poulter, chief executive of Laura Ashley, 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.”