LAURA Ashley has announced the permanent closure of 70 stores, with 721 employees set to lose their jobs.

It comes after the iconic Mid Wales fashion and furnishings retailer slid into administration earlier this month, blaming the impact of Coronavirus for tipping it over the edge.

It said it will continue to trade from its remaining 77 UK stores, which will remain open while online operations also continue to trade.

The homeware and women's fashion brand has North Wales stores in Bangor and Llandudno, with two more stores in Chester.

Laura Ashley's first shop was opened in Machynlleth in 1961, and had a factory in Carno, Powys. It still has factories on the Mochdre and Vastre Industrial Estates in Newtown.

Katharine Poulter, chief executive officer of Laura Ashley, said: "Since my appointment just last month, I have shared my vision for the future of this brand, accompanied with a robust turnaround plan to set the future direction of the company and return Laura Ashley to the great British brand that is known and cherished around the world.

"The vision also included reconnecting with our traditional values and our strong British heritage, and focusing on developing Laura Ashley as a lifestyle brand.

"I remain unwavering in my belief that Laura Ashley can and should retain the place it deserves in the international retail landscape. Unfortunately, we will lose some brilliant people through no fault of their own.

"However, I remain hopeful there is a buyer out there who shares my vision and can see the enormous potential of this iconic British brand that is known and loved around the world."