Mothercare up despite growing pains in the UK

Kasmira Jefford
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SHARES in Mothercare rose more than five per cent yesterday after the mother and baby products retailer posted better-than-expected second quarter sales in the struggling UK market.

Like-for-like sales were down 1.9 per cent in the 13 weeks to 12 October – better than the 2.8 per cent decline predicted by analysts, but a slowdown on the first quarter when sales fell 0.9 per cent.

Numis analyst Matthew Taylor said that while “disappointing, investors should not overlook the significant improvements being made to the underlying business”.

Nevertheless the broker cut its annual pre-tax profit forecast by £2m to £17m.

Mothercare, which generates 40 per cent of its sales in Britain, embarked on a three-year plan last year that has included launching new ranges, and pricing its clothes more competitively while revamping and closing stores.

The group closed a further five loss-making stores in the UK, which led to a sharper 6.9 per cent fall in total sales.

Meanwhile its overseas business continued to post double-digit growth, with retail sales up 12.6 per cent in the period at constant currencies.

“We are continuing to make fundamental improvements to our business in the UK, which will allow us to compete effectively in a changing marketplace,” chief executive Simon Calver said.

“However, the UK market in home and travel remained highly promotional and Autumn/Winter clothing faced the same warm weather challenges as the rest of the sector but is gaining market share,” he added.