Laura Ashley said improvements to its store portfolio helped to boost first-half profits. The Times. Financial Times

Pretax profits rose by a third to £4m in the period to 28 July. Total sales rose 6.9% to £113.9m. Total UK selling space increased by 8% to 672,000 sq ft. A focus on ‘more cost-effective locations’ – where rents are lower – meant 13 shops opened and six small outlets closed.

The group now has 196 sites in the UK, up from 178 a year ago.