The Laura Ashley brand has been bought out of administration by US investment firm Gordon Brothers, a company known for turning brands around. It’s unclear exactly what that will mean for the company, its shops, and its staff, with Gordon Brothers saying it would work with current management to “evaluate several go-to-market strategies” for the business.
This appears to be a very different approach from that taken by the owner of Cath Kidston. That brand was recently bought out of administration by its previous private equity owner and it announced immediately that all of its UK stores would close with the loss of around 900 jobs.
That said, Gordon Brothers still expects to shut a number of shops and talked of maintaining "a streamlined portfolio" of physical stores in the UK and Ireland. At the same time it will focus heavily on building up the business’s e-commerce operations, as well as developing more wholesale partnerships and striking international licensing and franchisee deals.
That makes sense given the problems the company has had running its own stores in recent periods and also the expansion that its partnerships have enabled in Asia and the US.
Gordon Brothers president of brands Ramez Toubassy said: “Laura Ashley is a true giant among British lifestyle brands, possessing a unique ability to span geographies, product categories and price points”.
Only this month, the new owner announced the sale of the Bench brand that it had bought out of administration in 2018. And the transformation programme for that brand could be a blueprint (of sorts) for Laura Ashley. The company said that with Bench, it focused on restructuring the business into a “more asset-light, intellectual property-centric business model”. It secured several new partners in diverse categories, returned it to a positioning that focused on its roots and ended up selling it to one of its anchor licensees for Europe.