Baby boom for Mothercare as its ELC purchase pays off

MOTHERCARE said yesterday its profits for the year to the end of March had rocketed almost 10-fold, following the acquisition of children&rsquo;s&nbsp;retailer Early Learning Centre (ELC).<br /><br />But the company warned the weakness in sterling could cause problems later in the year.<br /><br />Pre-tax profits for 2008-2009 at Mothercare were &pound;42.2m, a huge increase on last year&rsquo;s &pound;4.5m figure, which was hit by costs relating to the acquisition of ELC.<br /><br />The toy shop was bought for &pound;85m in 2007.<br /><br />Mothercare also announced it would up its dividend by around 20 per cent.<br /><br />Group revenues at the company went up by 6.9 per cent to &pound;724m.<br /><br />But the ailing pound is a concern for the company, as most of its merchandise is bought in dollars.<br /><br />Chief executive Ben Gordon said he planned to open 100 stores in the coming year, and added that international expansion was key.<br /><br />&ldquo;Only one half of one per cent of the world&rsquo;s babies are born in the UK, so the vast part of our opportunity lies outside of the UK,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />&ldquo;Given the uncertain consumer environment we are planning cautiously for 2009-10. However, we are well placed as we enter the new financial year,&rdquo; he added.<br /><br />Many retailers are struggling as cash-strapped consumers think twice before making a purchase amid&nbsp;rising unemployment, falling&nbsp;house prices and fears of a long recession.<br /><br />But Mothercare has bucked the trend, as the baby market remains resilient.&nbsp;<br />