Investors are cheered by Laura Ashley’s strong momentum

A STRONG performance in home accessories and growth overseas helped furniture-to-fashion retailer Laura Ashley post a 14 per cent jump in half-year profits.

Defying difficult conditions on the high street, retail sales in the UK improved 6.1 per cent to £127.5m, with the pace of growth in same-store sales this year accelerating from 3.9 per cent at the end of July to 4.2 per cent last Saturday.

Shares rose more than 7 per cent as investors cheered the momentum and the better-than-expected underlying profits of £8.3m for the six months to July 28.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

The firm’s fashion division, which makes up a fifth of its UK sales, saw flat like-for-like turnover but home accessories, which brings in a quarter of sales, grew 10.4 per cent on a like-for-like basis.

The furniture division represents 30 per cent of UK sales but it fared less well with sales down 0.3 per cent on a like-for-like basis.

Decorating products such as curtains, wallpaper and paint jumped 5.7 per cent.

Laura Ashley’s revenues from international franchises grew 15 per cent to £13.7m during the period.

The London-based firm, which makes around 40 per cent of its products in the UK, aims to continue its expansion plans in e-retail and new markets, having opened stores in Russia, Japan, Taiwan and Australia in the first half of the year.

It will allow customers to reserve items to collect in stores later this year, after enjoying a 21.4 per cent surge in online sales during the half-year.

Laura Ashley has 211 stores across the UK, the same as last year, and 263 franchised stores overseas.

The company also has a 49-bed hotel in Hertfordshire, acquired last November, which it aims to reopen before the end of the year.

Freddie George, an analyst at stockbroker Seymour Pierce, said the results were better than expected.