Laura Ashley has collapsed into administration

Wednesday, 18th March 2020, 4:55 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th March 2020, 4:55 pm

Fashion and furniture retailer, Laura Ashley, has become the latest business to fall into administration, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This comes only days after it was reported that the company - which operates more than 150 British stores and has 2,700 employees - was seeking a £15 million emergency loan by the end of the month, without which it was feared the chain would collapse.

Outbreak had a significant impact on trading

Laura Ashley said the coronavirus outbreak "has had an immediate and significant impact on trading". The business had been in talks with its lenders about accessing more funds to continue trading.

But, based on cashflow forecasts and continued virus uncertainty, it said it would not get that money in time.

The firm, which was also facing challenging High Street conditions, said, "The Covid-19 outbreak has had an immediate and significant impact on trading, and ongoing developments indicate that this will be a sustained national situation."

The retailer said it hired advisers from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to oversee the administration.

Many businesses on the brink

Laura Ashley is not the only company to have suffered from the impact of coronavirus. Firms from many industries, including airlines, retailers, restaurants, theatres and pubs, have said the virus has pushed them to the brink, with several warning of imminent collapse without government help.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has already announced a £12 billion Budget package to help businesses deal with the crisis, including business rates relief for small firms and a new hardship fund.

According to the BBC, most businesses do not have insurance cover to compensate them for coronavirus losses, a trade body and other experts have said. Small businesses, in particular, are unlikely to have such a policy.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) chair Mike Cherry said, "Many will feel like they are being made to choose between their health and the very survival of their business. Nobody should have to make this choice."

He added that the prospect for small businesses over the coming weeks "is increasingly bleak".