Laura Ashley’s three Cumbrian stores will close for good as the ailing retailer’s administrators step up efforts to find a buyer.

Its stores in Carlisle, Workington and Kendal were all included in the list of 70 across the UK that will close permanently putting 721 jobs at risk.

The fashion and furnishings retailer slid into administration earlier this month after last ditch efforts to secure cash from lenders, investors and stakeholders proved fruitless.

The company – which has 77 remaining stores – said the impact of coronavirus on footfall and sales had tipped it over the edge.

Laura Ashley’s administrators are PwC.

Joint administrator and PwC partner, Rob Lewis, said the store closures were part of a wider strategy that “provides a viable solution to help restructure the business”.

“In the current environment, we understand that the staff at the closed stores will have significant concerns, and so we will be working closely with them, given it is very likely that redundancies will have to be made,” he said.

“Our support to those staff during this difficult time will include working with various agencies and employers who have vacancies.

“Alongside supporting staff, our key objective as administrators is to engage with parties who are interested in acquiring the business.

“There have already been solid expressions of interest from potential bidders. We are hopeful the right buyer will be secured to provide a future for Laura Ashley, an iconic UK brand that is known around the world.”

Katharine Poulter, chief executive officer of Laura Ashley, was also hopeful a buyer could be found.

“I remain unwavering in my belief that Laura Ashley can and should retain the place it deserves in the international retail landscape,” she said.

“Unfortunately, we will lose some brilliant people through no fault of their own.”

Laura Ashley was the first big retailer to go citing the damage caused by coronavirus – albeit the final straw in a long-running battle to keep it going.

Experts have warned more will follow in an already weakened high street, which itself is to effectively shut down due to tighter restrictions from the Government on movement in a bid to curb the spread of covid-19.