Mothercare battles with poor UK sales

 
Kasmira Jefford
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MOTHERCARE chairman Alan Parker marked his first 100 days in office by announcing an overhaul of the baby products retailer after it revealed an £81.4m half-year loss.

Shares in the FTSE 250 firm plummeted by 17.87 per cent yesterday to 127.3p after the group posted an underlying pre-tax loss, before exceptional costs, of £4.4m for the six months to 8 October. This compared with a profit of £12.2m last year.

Parker, who is running the company following chief executive Ben Gordon’s exit last month, said Mothercare would conduct a “structural and operational” review looking at “the number, format and location” of its UK stores.

The group, which is facing fierce competition in the UK from supermarkets and internet players, issued its third profit warning last month, knocking a third off its market value.

Sales in the UK fell by 4.3 per cent to £281m, while Mothercare’s international arm performed strongly with sales growing by 15.7 per cent to £338.3m in the first half.

Parker said despite the challenges in a “weak” consumer environment, he was“confident that we can return to a profitable and sustainable business in the UK over time”.

Mothercare, which also owns the Early Learning Centre, detailed plans in May to close 110 of its 353 UK stores. The retailer has 969 outlets overseas.