Laura Ashley, one of the world’s best loved fashion and home furnishing companies has humble roots going back to 1953 when Laura and Bernard Ashley started printing fabric on their kitchen table in London. It was a Women’s Institute exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum that inspired them to make their own handcrafted patchwork quilts but couldn’t find the right fabric. They ultimately read up books on fabric printing in libraries, invested £10 in wood for a screen, dyes and some linen, and printed their own. The rest, as they say, is history.
The company has seen many ups and downs in the decades that followed but they are definitely on an up now. Following the footsteps of global luxury designer labels like Bulgari and Armani, Laura Ashley has bought a boutique hotel in Hertfordshire for £5.8m. They are refurbishing the hotel to turn it into a brand showcase for its products and interior design service. The hotel is expected to reopen its doors in a new avatar sometime later this year. All the 49 rooms of the hotel will have beds, sofa, wallpaper and curtains in matching fabrics.
The hotel is bound to become an attraction for Laura Ashley fans. It will become a place where the affluent guests can eat, sleep and shop the brand. Seán Anglim, the Chief Operating Officer of the hotel, clarified that over the years several hoteliers had approached the company to license the brand. It isn’t as if the concept of Laura Ashley hotel has come out of blue.
The company has a strong and healthy balance sheet. They have reported a profit of £18.8m on sales of £285.9m in the year ending January 2012. The last two months have witnessed a growth of 11% compared to the same period last year. The Laura Ashley hotel is bound to give another boost to the brand and help further consolidate its position in the market.