The administrators of fashion chain Laura Ashley have appointed CAPA to audit 180 stores the business occupied, after the lockdown claimed another high street casualty.

PwC instructed CAPA to conduct a full property and accounts payable audit across the entire business, after being appointed as administrators soon after the national lockdown took effect.

Another lifestyle brand affected by the pandemic, Laura Ashley specialises in furniture retailing, home accessories, decorating and fashion products. The group had retail stores based in the UK, Republic of Ireland and France, as well as franchise and licensee operations in 25 territories across the world.

Like other retailers, the business had been trading in difficult conditions even before the Covid-19 outbreak enforced the closure of stores. As an abrupt end to trading affected the group's cashflow forecasts, the group expected it would not be in a position to draw down additional funding fast enough to support working capital requirements.

In the end Zelf Hussain and Robert Lewis of PwC were appointed joint administrators on March 23 this year. Rachael Wilkinson of PwC was appointed as an additional administrator soon after.

Gordon Brothers has since acquired the Laura Ashley brand, and related intellectual property, although a new buyer is still being sought for the company as a going concern.

PwC has also since instructed CAPA to conduct the audits, meaning CAPA’s audit team will use bespoke software to carry out a forensic analysis of all property costs through the 180 sites the chain traded from.

The auditors will inspect the data on rates, utility bills, and property service management costs, to uncover any anomalies or errors, before recovering any overpaid sums for the fashion chain’s creditors.

The team will also analyse all information related to invoices paid out across the entire Laura Ashley business, to discover any further sums that could be saved or recovered for creditors.