UK: Fashion and retail brand Laura Ashley is to appoint administrators after being impacted by the coronavirus outbreak – one of the first retail casualties of the pandemic.
Over the weekend, Sky News reported that the retailer was seeking a £15 million fund to help support its 150 British stores and 2,700 jobs, or it could risk collapse by the end of the month.
Laura Ashley said in a statement: “The company regrets to announce that the directors of the company, and of the named subsidiaries, have today filed notices of intention to appoint Robert Lewis and Zelf Hussain as administrators.”
“The Covid-19 outbreak has had an immediate and significant impact on trading, and ongoing developments indicate that this will be a sustained national situation.”
As for the group’s hospitality brand, there are three Laura Ashley hotels in Cumbria, Coventry and Slough.
The hotels are operated by Corus Hotels, which recently signed a deal with Best Western GB.
Its 10 Laura Ashley Tea Rooms across the country are operated under licence.
David Westerby, chief executive officer at Corus and Laura Ashley Hotels, said: “Laura Ashley The Tea Room (Solihull, Coventry and Burnham) and Laura Ashley Hotels (The Belsfield and The Iliffe) are operated by Corus Hotels and are not affected by this news. We look forward to continuing to welcome guests to our properties.”
Nick Turner, principal for Laura Ashley Hospitality and managing director at OM Group International, said: “Naturally we are devastated that the Laura Ashley brand has been hit with a perfect storm of ongoing retail headwinds and now growing paralysis of the economy, which has sadly led to Laura Ashley seemingly running out of road with its current financial arrangements.”
“We understand that a race is on to find a new owner during this month as the Laura Ashley brand is a unique global super-brand in retail, but more interestingly on the growing hospitality side which has largely been driven and rolled out by OM Group.”
“We remain hopeful that certainly the Laura Ashley Tea Room re-emerges as a very powerful revenue tool for any hoteliers looking for volume day time trade when a new buyer is secured. OM Group will continue to roll out unbranded Tea Rooms for the UK hotel and resort market separately from Laura Ashley, and will continue to support owners with the development of these new ventures during 2020.”
News of the collapse comes as Rishi Sunak is expected to outline new financial measures to help deal with the effects of coronavirus in the government’s daily briefing later today.