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Wednesday, 9 January, 2002, 17:05 GMT
Tourism slump hits world famous stores
Laura Ashley home furnishings products
Furniture sales rose during December
World renowned retailers Hamleys and Laura Ashley have warned they are continuing to be dogged by global economic uncertainties.

Hamleys, admitting trade was "significantly affected" by the 11 September terror strikes, said it was imposing austerity measures in the face of a soft London tourism market.

"We will continue to ensure that costs and margins remain tightly controlled... as we remain cautious about the likely levels of visitor traffic to central London in the coming months," chairman Simon Burke said.

Christmas trading update - Wednesday
Domino's Pizza: +22.1%
Hamleys: +12.1%
Wm Morrison: +7.2% (excl fuel)
Dixons: +4.0%
JD Wetherspoon: +3.7%
Laura Ashley: 0%
Iceland: -0.8%

And spending by US and Japanese tourists at Laura Ashley stores has plunged 40% since the attacks, chief executive Ng Kwan Cheong said.

"Laura Ashley relies on visitors from these countries in a number of key areas," Mr Ng said.

A statement added: "The overall weakness in world economies is impacting across the business."

Clothes sales suffer

Sales at Laura Ashley stores were flat in the six weeks to Saturday, the briefing revealed, despite the strong trade enjoyed by many other stores.

Sales of women's clothing fell by 13%.

But revenue from home furnishings rose by 12% over Christmas, and by 18% in the last five months of the year.

This performance helped the retailer grow like-for-like sales by 7% since August, despite an 8% drop in takings from clothes departments.

Internet boost

At Hamleys, like-for-like sales grew by 12.1% in the five weeks to 29 December, with takings at the flagship Regent Street store in London rising 7.1%.

Sales through Hamleys Direct, the catalogue and internet arm, surged by 140%.

The performance "to some extent" offset the fall-off in trade following 11 September attacks, the retailer said.

Since the start of October, like-for-like sales have increased by 68.5%, with the Regent Street store seeing growth of 2.3%.

In the City, Hamleys shares closed 2p firmer at 118.5p on Wednesday.

Laura Ashley stock ended down 5p, or 18%, at 22.25p.

Shares in Laura Ashley topped 150p in January 1997.

See also:

18 Sep 01 | Business
Laura Ashley revival continues
24 Apr 01 | Business
Laura Ashley: Back in black
12 Jan 01 | Business
Laura Ashley ups sales
20 Sep 00 | Business
Laura Ashley returns to profit
22 Sep 99 | Wales
The Laura Ashley story
28 Apr 99 | Business
The decline of Laura Ashley
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