Mothercare sees foreign sales beat UK

MOTHERCARE posted a 22 per cent rise in first-half profit yesterday, with a strong performance overseas offsetting weak UK sales.

The baby and mother goods retailer, with more than 1,200 stores in 54 countries, said it made an underlying pre-tax profit of £12.2m in the 28 weeks to 9 October.

That compares with £10m in the same period last year.

Overall sales rose 7.5 per cent to £590.2m, with overseas retail sales overtaking British sales for the first time. International sales were up 17.3 per cent, reflecting 112 new overseas stores, but UK sales fell 0.4 per cent. Mothercare opened 112 international stores in the period, including opening its 50th store in India.

It has also raised its store opening target for the year from 100 to 150, boosting retail space by 20 per cent.

Sales in the company’s home shopping business, were 11.6 per cent higher at £64.7m.

Chief executive Ben Gordon said: “The UK consumer environment remains uncertain and we continue to plan cautiously.”

Mothercare is paying an interim dividend of 6.4p, up 16.4 per cent.

Shares in Mothercare have lost eight per cent of their value over the last six months, hit by its warning in July that profit margins would suffer from price cuts and promotions as it seeks to attract cash-strapped shoppers.

Gordon added: “We are however benefiting significantly from the strategic initiatives we have taken and from the rapid growth of international.”

The chain has 1,217 stores in 54 countries, and is planning to expand its parenting centres in out-of-town sites where all the ranges are included.