Laura Ashley

Laura Ashley is a lifestyle brand with operations in the textile, fashion, furniture and hospitality industries. Established in 1953 and listed on the London Stock Exchange since 1985, the company enjoys a reputation as one of the world’s best-loved fashion and home furnishings companies. It currently owns more than 160 retail outlets in the UK, Ireland and France, and achieved total sales of GBP 277 million in 2017.

To manage profitability across its diverse retail channels and manufacturing operations, Laura Ashley must be able to monitor financial performance by channel. By upgrading its IBM® Analytics landscape, the company has accelerated its financial consolidation processes and streamlined the delivery of both management insight and statutory reports.

What was Laura Ashley looking to improve that led you to implementing a new financial performance management platform?

Laura Ashley is an international lifestyle brand, with 16 subsidiaries and 163 retail outlets in the UK, Ireland, and France, as well as online and mail-order sales channels, manufacturing facilities, and a licensing business.

In practical terms, the company’s operational structure—which includes more than 1,000 cost centers across the various legal entities—means that data must pass through a complex financial consolidation process before company management can make informed decisions at group level.

It’s important that we get detailed and up-to-date information on financial performance across all our channels, so that we can monitor our profitability and align our strategy to take advantage of emerging opportunities.

Seán Anglim, CFO of Laura Ashley

Our existing financial consolidation platform had been a mainstay of our business for many years, but it ran on a platform that was reaching end-of-life. We knew we would have to update our software to mitigate the risk of running such a business-critical system on an unsupported operating system.

Darryl Fernandes, Group Finance Manager

The need to upgrade also presented opportunities to accelerate and streamline the consolidation process.

It was taking the old system half a day to consolidate a year’s worth of data. That obviously represents an inefficiency, when our accountants could be focusing on more valuable tasks. We knew there had to be a better solution.

Darryl Fernandes, Group Finance Manager

Laura Ashley decided to work with IBM to implement a new financial performance management platform built around IBM Planning Analytics and IBM Cognos® Controller. The finance team loads data from spreadsheets into the Planning Analytics database, which automatically feeds it into Cognos Controller to perform the consolidation process, and updates the results in the company’s JD Edwards ERP system.

Unlike many companies, which only run their financial consolidations on subsidiary-level data, Laura Ashley decided to go one level deeper, and import its data at the cost center level. This makes the consolidation much more complex and demanding, but it also delivers important benefits.

With the solution in place, Laura Ashley can consolidate financial data from cost centers throughout its business much faster than before.

With Planning Analytics, we’ve seen significant savings in the time taken to consolidate data.  Loading a year’s worth of data into the old system took half a day; now we can do it in just half an hour, which amounts to a more than 85 percent time saving. Instead of waiting for the system to calculate results, we can get on with analysing the data and making decisions.

Darryl Fernandes, Group Finance Manager

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