// 721 employees to lose their jobs as Laura Ashley announces permanent closure of 70 stores
// The retailer intends to officially fall into administration later today, after appointing advisers last week to oversee process
// It is the first UK retail casualty as a result of the coronavirus pandemic
Laura Ashley has announced the permanent closure of 70 stores, with 721 employees set to lose their jobs.
It comes after the fashion and furnishings retailer announced its intention to hire administrators last week, blaming the impact of coronavirus for tipping it over the edge.
Prior to that, Laura Ashley operated 150 stores in the UK and employed around 2700 staff.
- 2700 jobs at risk with Laura Ashley on brink of administration
- 2700 jobs at risk as Laura Ashley eyes £15m lifeline from Hilco Capital
- Cath Kidston at risk of being next coronavirus casualty as it urgently seeks buyer
The news comes as host of retailers, including John Lewis, Debenhams, H&M, Inditex, Primark, Arcadia, Clarks, Waterstones and Ikea, announced temporary store closures in the face of the pandemic over the weekend.
However, Laura Ashley is one of the first to announce permanent closures after the virus exacerbated a recent downturn in profitability.
It said it would continue to trade from its remaining 77 UK stores, which will remain open while online operations also continue to trade.
Laura Ashley said it expected to officially enter administration later today after appointing advisers from PwC to oversee the process.
Last week, the retailer said it would enter insolvency after rescue talks for a £15 million lifeline were thwarted by the coronavirus crisis, which has heavily impacted the retail sector.
Laura Ashley said its administrators would now work to support employees who are set to be impacted by the raft of closures.
The administrators will also initially focus on talking with interested parties in a bid to secure a buyer for the retailer.
Laura Ashley chief executive Katherine Poulter said she was “hopeful” they would find a buyer for the retailer.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
Elsewhere, retailer N Brown said it was in talks with its lenders to access more funds after maxing out its current credit facility.
The Jacamo and Simply Be owner said daily sales have been more than 40 per cent below expectations after a sudden slump in customer demand.
Meanwhile, Ted Baker saw its shares slip on Monday after it announced the sale and leaseback of its head office and said a vast majority of its stores have now been shut.
It said more than 90 per cent of its store portfolio has now been shut temporarily due to the virus.
Men’s tailoring business Moss Bros also said it was closing all its stores until further notice and has forecasts a significant decline in revenues and profitability for 2021.
It said footfall has fallen dramatically in recent week and expects a “sharper decline in trading performance” due to the virus.
with PA Wires