Mothercare sales hit by bad weather

MOTHERCARE has issued a profit warning after the winter weather dented its performance over the Christmas period.

Like-for-like sales in the last three months of 2010 fell 5.8 per cent at the mother and baby retailer as the snow and ice took its toll, it said in a trading statement yesterday.

Toy sales were hardest hit after the firm cut off Christmas online orders early to ensure delivery.

The retailer said the poor weather had badly hit its out-of-town shopping centres.

It warned that annual gross profits from the UK would be lower than the £41m previously stated, adding that the consumer environment remained “difficult”.

However, the firm has continued to see strong growth in its international business where sales grew by 17.6 per cent between September and January compared with the same period a year earlier.

Ben Gordon, Mothercare’s chief executive, said: “In the UK, after a strong start to the quarter, sales were impacted significantly by the adverse winter weather conditions.”

Keith Bowman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown said: “Despite growing international sales, an already challenged UK business now forms another weather victim.

“The group’s shift towards out-of-town premises appears to have worked against it, while like rival Next, the fragilities of time critical direct online Christmas sales have been exposed.” Other retailers, including Next and HMV, blamed poor weather on their disappointing sales figures when they updated the market earlier in the week.