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57 more staff made redundant as buy-out hope for Laura Ashley factories fails

By Elgan Hearn | Newtown | Business | Published:

Hopes of a management buy-out at a town's Laura Ashley factories have been dashed.

Laura Ashley's Texplan site in Newtown

It is understood that another 57 staff at Texplan, the firm's warehouse, and call centre – all based in Newtown – were told on Tuesday that they will be made redundant next month.

Last month 148 staff were made redundant as the firm struggles continued.

In March, the iconic fashion and furnishings company entered administration.

Efforts by Laura Ashley chief executive, Katherine Poulter, to find a financial backer to buy the stock and freehold to the sites, have failed.

She has addressed staff explaining the situation.

Ms Poulter, said: “We have put up an extraordinary fight striving to secure funding for Laura Ashley to re-emerge as a radically transformed but profitable going concern.

“The quality of our robust, turnaround plans have attracted much buyer interest and Welsh government support.

“I tell you this because, while it doesn’t make what I have to share any easier, it shows that our turnaround approach and actions have been logical and rigorous.

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“Everyone in our Laura Ashley family has pulled together and delivered everything possible to give our business operations the best chance of continuing as a going concern.

“Time and events have conspired against us.

“It is now increasingly unlikely that we will be able to secure a going concern for retail and manufacturing operations.

“We left absolutely no stone unturned in our quest to save operational heart and soul of the business.”

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Ms Poulter joined the firm in February and had wanted to be part of “Bringing Laura back to greatness.”

Newtown East Powys County Councillor, Joy Jones said: “It’s really sad and so hard for the workforce and families, it will have a huge impact on the area.”

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In March PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) was appointed as Laura Ashley’s administrators.

Joint administrator and PwC partner, Rob Lewis, said: “The news is extremely disappointing and it is with real regret that we have to announce redundancies at what is already a challenging time for individuals dealing with Covid-19 disruption.

“We will, of course, provide all affected staff with the necessary support, which will include working with various agencies and employers who have vacancies.

“The company is continuing to trade to sell the stock on hand and we would like to extend thanks to all Laura Ashley employees for their continued support, service and cooperation both before and during the administration.

“We still believe there is value in the group and we remain open to interest however, should a going concern sale not be possible we may be required to initiate a controlled store closure programme.”

In April, 25 machinists returned to work to make up to 3,000 sets of scrubs a week for the NHS as part of the efforts to deal with coronavirus.

The Laura Ashley brand has already been sold to a US private equity business, Gordon Brothers.

Last month 148 staff were made redundant as the firm struggles continued.

Born in Merthyr Tydfil, Laura Ashley began making Victorian style head scarves in 1953 founding a company with her husband Bernard.

In 1960, they moved from Kent to Mid-Wales and they opened their first shop in 1961 at Machynlleth.

Later that year they moved to Carno where they set up their first factory.

They expanded to have factories in Newtown and open up shops across the world.

In 1985 at just 60 years old, Laura Ashley died following injuries sustained in a fall.

Elgan Hearn

By Elgan Hearn
@ElganPowysLDR

Local Democracy Reporter covering Powys.

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