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Laura Ashley fashion chain in administration as stores and staff in Kent face uncertain future

Fashion giant Laura Ashley has filed for administration after rescue talks were thwarted by the coronavirus outbreak.

The retailer, which has been in trouble for some time, had been in talks with stakeholders over re-financing, but has now said its revised cash flow forecasts, during this time of uncertainty, means it will not be able to secure funds in time to save the business.

The Laura Ashleys store in Broadstairs
The Laura Ashleys store in Broadstairs

The retailer hired advisers from PwC to oversee the administration today and means jobs across the county are at risk.

It is not known at this stage if stores will close immediately.

In a statement, as spokesman for Laura Ashley said: “The company regrets to announce that the directors of the company, and of the named subsidiaries, have today filed notices of intention to appoint Robert Lewis and Zelf Hussain as administrators.

"If administrators are appointed in respect of the company, given the group’s creditor position, the company is not certain whether there would be any surplus assets available to shareholders of the company.”

The news comes after last year's announcement the firm had closed some 40 branches since 2015 as it responds to changing shopping habits.

The Laura Ashley shop in Tenterden was still open earlier today
The Laura Ashley shop in Tenterden was still open earlier today

There are six stores in the county, in Canterbury, Sevenoaks, Maidstone, Broadstairs, Tunbridge Wells and Tenterden.

The retailer has been doing well in the weeks leading up to March 13, with trading up some 24% on the previous period a year earlier.

The spokesman added: "However, the Covid-19 outbreak has had an immediate and significant impact on trading, and ongoing developments indicate that this will be a sustained national situation."

Main shareholder MUI Asia Limited will not be able to step in with the money which is needed in time, Laura Ashley said.

The retailer operates 150 stores in the UK and employs around 2,700 staff.

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