Rob Lewis and Zelf Hussain of PwC have been appointed as joint administrators of Laura Ashley Holdings plc (“ Laura Ashley” or “the Company”, its key trading subsidiary Laura Ashley Limited, Premier Home Logistics Limited, Laura Ashley Investments Limited, and Texplan Manufacturing Limited (collectively “ the Group”)).
The appointment was made on Monday 23 March.
Laura Ashley is an international lifestyle brand which specialises in furniture retailing, home accessories, decorating and fashion products. The Group has retail stores based in the UK, Republic of Ireland and France and franchise and licensee operations located across the world in 25 territories.
The UK property portfolio comprises 147 stores. In addition to the store portfolio across the UK, the Group has significant operations in Newtown in Powys, Coalville in Leicestershire and Chelsea. The entities in administration employ 1,624 retail staff and 1,034 head office, distribution and logistics, call centre and manufacturing staff.
As previously stated by the Group, the COVID-19 outbreak had an immediate and significant impact on trading. Based on the Group's cashflow forecasts and the increased uncertainty facing it, the Group expected that it would not be in a position to draw down additional funding in a timely manner sufficient to support its working capital requirements, and therefore each of the above companies filed a Notice to Appoint Administrators on 17 March.
As a result, each of the companies have now entered administration. Regretfully 70 UK stores will be closed permanently today and, potentially, 721 employees will be affected. We will be working with those employees to help them understand what this means for their roles and provide all necessary support including finding alternative employment.
The joint administrators will continue to trade the remaining business while discussions take place with interested parties with the aim of securing a buyer. The remaining 77 UK stores will be open as normal subject to Government guidance around COVID-19. Purchases will continue to be accessible online.
Rob Lewis, joint administrator and PwC partner, said:
“The strategy announced today, which includes the permanent closure of 70 stores, provides a viable solution to help restructure the business, albeit there are some stores that have not been closed where we will be entering into discussions with landlords to seek to agree changes to lease terms to improve viability.
“In the current environment, we understand that the staff at the closed stores will have significant concerns, and so we will be working closely with them, given it is very likely that redundancies will have to be made. Our support to those staff during this difficult time will include working with various agencies and employers who have vacancies. We will also, of course, be providing support to those staff at stores that remain open and the many staff in the Group’s operations in Newtown, Chelsea and Coalville.
“We have secured funds to ensure all staff will be paid their March wages as normal.
“Alongside supporting staff, our key objective as administrators is to engage with parties who are interested in acquiring the business. There have already been solid expressions of interest from potential bidders. We are hopeful the right buyer will be secured to provide a future for Laura Ashley, an iconic UK brand that is known around the world.”
Zelf Hussain, joint administrator and PwC partner, said:
“Like many other retailers Laura Ashley has been hit hard by market headwinds and weaker consumer spending. For a retail sector already under severe pressure, the current environment driven by COVID-19 is unprecedented.
“We will continue to closely monitor the Government advice in relation to COVID-19 and factor that into our strategy as the situation develops. In the meantime, 77 outlets remain open for business and we are very grateful for the hard work that all of the staff will put in over the coming days to help us find a future for the business.”
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