Laura Ashley eyes smaller outlets

HOME furnishings chain Laura Ashley plans to open more specialist gift stores this year after the success of a trial outlet.

It trades mainly from larger sites but has been encouraged by initial feedback about its gift and accessories store, which opened at London's Liverpool Street station last July. Chief executive Lillian Tan said Laura Ashley could open five further concept stores this year. The news came as the firm posted an 8 per cent rise in underlying pre-tax profits for the year to January to 11 million, although margins were squeezed by the weaker pound.