Laura Ashley sees sales and profits rise

Laura Ashley shop, London
Image caption Furniture, fashion and accessories all saw like-for-like sales growth

Laura Ashley has defied High Street gloom and reported a rise in sales and profits for the first half of the year.

Like-for-like sales, which strip out the impact of sales at stores open less than a year, rose by 3.5% against a year ago. Pre-tax profits, excluding exceptional items, rose 28% to £7.3m.

Internet sales were particularly strong, growing by more than 9%.

The furniture and fashion retailer also doubled its interim dividend to 1 pence a share.

Like-for-like furniture sales rose 5.8%, while fashion sales were up 5.2%.

"These are a set of pleasing results... in what has been a very unsettled time for the retail sector," said group chairman Tan Sri Dr Khoo.

"[The results] give me confidence, notwithstanding the continuing economic headwinds, that we will meet the board's expectations for the year."

A number of retailers are struggling with weak consumer spending during the fragile economic recovery.

Home Retail Group reported a sharp fall in sales at Argos and Homebase on Thursday, while on Wednesday electricals goods firm Dixons reported weaker sales and chocolate maker Thorntons posted a full-year loss.

Earlier this week, figures from the British Retail Consortium suggested UK retail sales fell in August.

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