Laura Ashley to close 40 UK stores amid push into China

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Laura Ashley

Laura Ashley has announced plans to significantly reduce its store estate in the UK as its owner looks to expand to “Asia in a much bigger way”.

Malayan United Industries (MUI), which had already closed 40 Laura Ashley stores in 2015, said the home furnishings retailer would reduce its UK store estate from 160 sites to 120.

Although MUI assured that job losses would be kept to a minimum amid plans to grow remaining stores, it added it would be restructuring some divisions while rationalising assets.

This marks part of a new growth strategy which will place priority on the retailer’s presence in China, initially focusing on its online operations in the region before investing in store growth.

“The direction I want to go is to have not so many stores, but maybe the ones we have could be larger,” MUI chairman Andrew Khoo, who took over from his father last week, told the Press Association.  

“It’s more about showcasing the brand. It doesn’t really matter if they buy online or offline, we just want them to get inspired.”

“We’re moving to Asia in a much bigger way. We have a regional office in Singapore, it’s a dedicated office of about 10 people and it’s focused purely on ecommerce into China.

“Once we get a significant foothold in digital retail in China we can look at the physical stores rollout.”

He added that despite the store closures, he still has “confidence in the UK and we will continue to invest I the UK”.

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