Gordon Brothers acquires Laura Ashley out of administration
Laura Ashley, the British lifestyle brand once beloved for its floral print fashions, fragrances and housewares, has been acquired by a U.S.-based advisory, restructuring, and investment firm.
Gordon Brothers announced that it has acquired the Laura Ashley brand, archives, and related intellectual property from the Laura Ashley group’s U.K. administrators. The British retailer declared insolvency in mid-March, blaming COVID-19 for its failure, and was placed into administration, which is the U.K. equivalent of Chapter 11.
“It has had an immediate and significant impact on trading, and ongoing developments indicate that this will be a sustained national situation,” the company said in a statement to the London Stock Exchange. Parent company MUI Asia Limited, confirmed it was unable to provide financial support in the required timeframe.
Founded in 1953 by husband and wife team Bernard and Laura Ashley, Laura Ashley eventually expanded around the globe, including South Korea, the Ukraine, the United States, and Japan. It has struggled for some time, however, amid changing fashion trends. In recent years, it has shifted its focus mainly to home furnishings, with a small amount of clothing and accessories. The company promoted its COO, Katharine Poulter, to CEO in February, and she had initiated a strategic review of the business.
“Laura Ashley is a true giant among British lifestyle brands, possessing a unique ability to span geographies, product categories, and price points,” said Ramez Toubassy, president of brands for Gordon Brothers. “We feel humbled and inspired by the responsibility to reignite Mrs. Ashley’s original vision while delivering unique and contemporary products to both long-time followers and new customers from around the world.”
Gordon Brothers said it will partner with Laura Ashley management to evaluate several go-to-market strategies for the business, some of which could include retaining a streamlined portfolio of retail stores in key markets within the U.K. and Ireland. Gordon Brothers intends to place a strong emphasis on building e-commerce, developing more strategic wholesale relationships, and expanding the portfolio of licensees and franchisees globally.
“Throughout this process, Gordon Brothers has shown a passion for the Laura Ashley brand and I am delighted that, under their ownership, there will be a real opportunity to grow its profile worldwide,” said Rob Lewis, joint administrator of several of the Laura Ashley group companies in the U.K.
He continued, “Whilst we have taken an important step forward in securing the sale of the brand, we continue to explore opportunities to reshape the U.K. store-based retail and manufacturing businesses and are very grateful for the efforts of the entire team at Laura Ashley in helping us with those discussions.”