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Laura Ashley profit rises, second half begins on strong note

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CANADA - JANUARY 09: The country bride: Full-length gown of ivory cotton trimmed with cotton roses has a fresh look. $625 from Laura Ashley. Available Hazelton Ave. store only. All jewelry from the Yu Wedding Collection. Flowers this page; including wreath of wild berries on her head; by Melissa Bourque Floral Designs. (Photo by Ken Faught/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

CANADA - JANUARY 09: The country bride: Full-length gown of ivory cotton trimmed with cotton roses has a fresh look. $625 from Laura Ashley. Available Hazelton Ave. store only. All jewelry from the Yu Wedding Collection. Flowers this page; including wreath of wild berries on her head; by Melissa Bourque Floral Designs. (Photo by Ken Faught/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Toronto Star via Getty Images

CANADA - JANUARY 09: The country bride: Full-length gown of ivory cotton trimmed with cotton roses has a fresh look. $625 from Laura Ashley. Available Hazelton Ave. store only. All jewelry from the Yu Wedding Collection. Flowers this page; including wreath of wild berries on her head; by Melissa Bourque Floral Designs. (Photo by Ken Faught/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Fashion and homewares retailer Laura Ashley reported a nearly 15 percent rise in first-half pretax profit, helped by strong growth in online sales in the UK.

The company, which is known for its feminine and floral designs, also said like-for-like sales were up 8 percent in the five weeks to Aug. 30.

Laura Ashley stock rose as much as 11 percent, making it one of the top percentage gainers on the London Stock Exchange in early trading on Friday.

Pretax profit rose to 8.5 million pounds ($13.9 million) in the 26 weeks to July 26 from 7.4 million pounds a year earlier. Like-for-like retail sales rose 1.2 percent.

Total group sales rose 4.9 percent to 144 million pounds, with e-commerce revenue increasing 6.1 percent to 22.5 million pounds during the period.

Laura Ashley said it opened two new stores in the first half of the year and shut three, giving the group a portfolio of 208 outlets in the UK.

The company said franchise and licensing revenue grew by 13.6 percent to 17.1 million pounds in its overseas business. The company had 296 franchised stores in 32 countries at the end of the first half.

Shares in the company were trading up 7.9 percent at 27.25 pence at 0738 GMT.

Online Editors