LA Story

Published on: February 23, 2022

Since 2008, Laura Ashley and Qualita have been inseparable – a partnership that even the former’s going into administration could not destroy. Indeed, these days the two are working more closely than ever, explains Laura Ashley’s head of design and product, Helen Ashmore, and VP, Poppy Marshall-Lawton…

What’s your industry background, and role in the business? Having worked for both suppliers and in retail design for many years, Helen is now leading the design development process with the Laura Ashley team, setting the print, pattern and product direction with the licensees to deliver the stories for the season.
As VP of the brand, Poppy oversees the newly established UK brand team activity. Her role is to re-establish the brand in the UK and internationally within the new licensing structure. She has worked in licensing for over 15 years, and joined Laura Ashley in 2014.

How does Laura Ashley differ from its pre-administration model?

The new Laura Ashley is a far cry from the pre-administration model. We no longer operate stores or directly source products. The company now consists of a small team of dedicated brand ambassadors leading design, marketing and retail strategy with our carefully selected partners who develop, manufacture and distribute the collections in line with the seasonal collections and trend guidance developed by our in-house design team.

The brand is now distributed through selected retail partnerships. Our key retail partner for the relaunch was Next, who operate our ecommerce platform and display the branded collections in
over 45 of their retail locations.

What were the challenges involved in rebuilding your furniture offer?

We worked tirelessly to bring back the bestselling ranges for the relaunch of the brand in March 2021. Once we had established the new brand partnerships, we had a little over six months to source ranges and get stock into the UK.

For the Home collection, it was key to be able to bring back the bestselling ranges that customers know and trust. Many of the previous suppliers of the Laura Ashley range had been seriously affected by the administration of the previous company, so relationships had to be rebuilt as we all began to adapt to the different ways of working. This was all during the global pandemic, and with all the international shipping challenges – but we’re now able to enjoy working on the new collections.

Why did Laura Ashley choose Qualita as its sole cabinet furniture partner?

Qualita have been a key partner of Laura Ashley over many years, and with their manufacturing and sourcing network, along with their high quality standards, they were a clear choice as the partner for our cabinet furniture range. Qualita were able to move quickly to re-establish the supply chain, and made huge investments to get it available for launch. Laura Ashley is a global brand
with over 70 global retail stores, and Qualita were also able to continue to supply these international retailers.

How does Qualita act on your behalf?

As the exclusive licensee for cabinet furniture of the Laura Ashley brand in the UK and Europe, Qualita are responsible for sourcing a wide range of furniture that sits within the wider Laura
Ashley Home collection. They offer the full Laura Ashley furniture collection to Next in the UK, and are working on expanding distribution throughout the UK and Europe. The ranges that are
produced and supplied by Qualita need to fit with our brand values of being design led and focused on quality.

What’s the scope of your operation together?

Now that we have relaunched the brand in the UK, we are working to expand our retail distribution with other multiple home retailers who reach a different customer demographic, and we are
seeing that there is a huge appetite for the brand from other retailers. This is a long-term relationship that we want to develop, to be able to continue to bring newness to the collection whilst looking at expanding internationally.

New collections have just launched online, with further range additions and new products due this spring. Furniture will continue to be at the centre of the Laura Ashley brand as we look to the
future and work to attract a broader customer base, both in the UK and internationally.