Mothercare to focus on larger stores

MOTHERCARE, the pregnancy and early childhood retailer, will increase the number of its large-format stores as it prepares to close up to 90 smaller high street locations.<br /><br />Chief executive Ben Gordon said the company&rsquo;s out-of-town parenting centres, which combine the Mothercare and Early Learning Centre brands under one roof, account for 40 per cent of the group&rsquo;s current floorspace but provide 65 per cent of its profit.<br /><br />For that reason Gordon and his team plan to open 33 new parenting centres by the end of 2011, including eight before Christmas.<br /><br />Mothercare, which has 389 stores in the UK, has leases on 90 lower-profit stores expiring in the next three years and Gordon warned their future was in doubt as part of the expansion of the so-called &ldquo;destination stores&rdquo; programme.<br /><br />Gordon said the downturn in the property market had created opportunities to secure high-quality locations on better rental terms.<br /><br />Mothercare yesterday posted half-year pre-tax profits of &pound;10m, up 11 per cent from the &pound;9m reported in the same period last year. Group sales grew by 7.9 per cent to &pound;3.87bn.<br /><br />On a like-for-like basis UK sales climbed by four per cent while international sales form the group&rsquo;s 671 stores around the world were up by a more modest one per cent.<br /><br />Gordon said: &ldquo;With the strength of our two global brands, our rapidly growing international platform, a reducing UK cost base and debt free business, we are well placed as we enter the important second half.&rdquo;<br /><br />Areas where the eight parenting centres are due to open by Christmas include Stoke, Newton Abbey, Poole, King&rsquo;s Lynn and Lewisham.<br />