Fears mount over Laura Ashley's UK future as CEO exits
Katharine Poulter, the chief executive officer of ailing fashion retailer Laura Ashley, has left the company as part of the latest round of jobs cuts.
Her departure raises further questions about the future of the fashion brand in the UK.
Poulter was planning to acquire the retailer’s UK operation from the joint administrators at PwC, securing the future of the company's factory in Newtown, Powys, a number of stores and scores of jobs.
But her efforts to find a financial backer failed, leading to the loss of 55 jobs last week. In a message sent to staff and published by local newspapers, Katharine Poulter revealed she was part of the redundancies.
“We have put up an extraordinary fight striving to secure funding for Laura Ashley to re-emerge as a radically transformed but profitable going concern,” she said, adding that the turnaround plans had attracted buyer interest and the support of the Welsh government.
“Everyone in our Laura Ashley family has pulled together and delivered everything possible to give our business operations the best chance of continuing as a going concern. [But] time and events have conspired against us,” she explained.
Laura Ashley has been in the hands of administrators at PwC since late March after struggling to cope with a string of challenges made worse by the Covid-19 lockdown.
In April, the joint administrators sold the Laura Ashley brand, its archives and related intellectual property to Gordon Brothers, the advisory, restructuring, and investment firm.
But the future of the brand’s stores is still undecided, with administrators saying they “continue to review the position of Laura Ashley stores and will provide further updates in due course”.
Laura Ashley’s 147 stores in the UK started to reopen from 15 June in line with government guidance to clear stock. They are unlikely to survive long-term unless PwC finds another buyer.
Rob Lewis, joint administrator and PwC partner, said: “We still believe there is value in the group and we remain open to interest however, should a going concern sale not be possible we may be required to initiate a controlled store closure programme.”
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