Buyer sought for Laura Ashley as some redundancies confirmed

Administrators of Laura Ashley has confirmed a number of redundancies as well as plans to pursue a buyer for the retail group.

On Monday 23 March, Rob Lewis and Zelf Hussain of PwC were appointed as joint administrators of Laura Ashley Holdings plc and key trading subsidiary businesses Laura Ashley Limited, Premier Home Logistics Limited, Laura Ashley Investments Limited, and Texplan Manufacturing Limited.

Since their appointment, the joint administrators have continued to trade the business whilst engaging with interested parties with the aim of securing a buyer.

All 147 UK stores closed on 23 March. 70 were closed following a review of their longer term viability, whilst the balance of stores were closed following UK Government guidance around COVID-19.

It is currently anticipated that all stores will reopen (when guidance permits) for a period of time, either because the stores form part of a sale of the business or to sell through the stock on hand.

Following the government’s announcement in relation to the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme, the administrators will be applying to include a large number of Laura Ashley’s employees within the scheme.

The joint administrators are therefore able to confirm that they have communicated to 1,669 store employees that they will be furloughed with effect from 31 March. 

However, due to the financial position of the business, it is not viable to retain or furlough all employees. The joint administrators have had to take the difficult decision to implement a redundancy programme for 268 employees across a number of head office and back office functions.

All staff affected have been informed and will be paid up to and including their last day of employment.

The joint administrators will continue to trade the e-commerce business as normal while discussions take place with interested parties with the aim of securing a buyer. Remaining employees in head office or those supporting the e-commerce business will work at home where possible, or where not, are working within social distancing guidelines.

Rob Lewis, joint administrator and PwC partner, said: “It is obviously disappointing to have to announce redundancies at what is already a challenging time for individuals dealing with COVID-19 disruption.  However, we have taken this difficult step to improve the viability of the business whilst we continue to engage with interested parties around a potential sale. We will, of course, provide all affected staff with the necessary support during this difficult time, which will include working with various agencies and employers who have vacancies.  We will also be providing support to those staff and the many remaining staff in the Group’s operations in Newtown, Coalville and head office in Chelsea.

“We would like to thank the employees for the support, service and cooperation they have provided to Laura Ashley, both before and during the period of administration to date.

“Alongside supporting staff, our key objective as administrators is to progress the solid expressions of interest from parties who are interested in acquiring the business. We believe there is strong value in the Group and the brand, and we remain focused on doing all we can to achieve a sale.”