LAURA ASHLEY, FEDEX LINK UP

LAURA ASHLEY, FEDEX LINK UP

Laura Ashley Holdings PLC and a Federal Express Corp. unit formed a worldwide alliance to restructure and manage the flow of goods and information within the Laura Ashley supply chain, the companies announced here Thursday.

The fashion retailer operates stores in 28 countries, sources from suppliers located all over the world and brings its products to market in a variety of ways, including home delivery, but its existing logistics are complex, costly and inefficient, the company acknowledged.Federal Express Business Logistics, a division of Federal Express Europe Inc., and Laura Ashley will establish joint operating and systems teams to improve the operation of Laura Ashley's global logistics function.

The agreement is a critical step in a program launched in September by the retailer's new chief executive, Jim Maxmin, to simplify its operations.

Laura Ashley will save 10 percent to 12 percent of total distribution costs, as well as substantial reductions in working capital, the companies said.

The agreement also will give the retailer access to FedEx's global systems and enable it to focus on areas of core competence.