Mothercare UK rescue strategy helps cut losses

 
Kasmira Jefford
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MOTHERCARE narrowed its losses in the first half of the year as international sales growth and efforts to turn around its troubled UK division helped boost business.

The baby products retailer yesterday reported a pre-tax loss of £27.4m in the six months to 13 October, an improvement on its £81.4m loss in the same period last year. Its underlying performance – stripping out one-off items – was stronger, with its pre-tax loss shrinking from £4.4m to £0.6m.

UK like-for-like sales fell by 3.4 per cent in the period, but this was an improvement on a seven per cent fall last year. Sales swung into positive territory in the second quarter following 10 quarters of decline.

Simon Calver, who joined in April from online movie rental firm Lovefilm, launched a three year turnaround plan for the group, pledging to be “ruthless” on costs and bring its UK business back to “acceptable levels of profit” by 2015.

He has closed 31 UK stores in the first half and plans to reduce the total to 200. Calver has also cut clothing prices, lowered head office costs and launched new ranges like the Little Bird range from Jools Oliver, wife of TV chef Jamie Oliver. “Overall we are on track. It’s still very early days we are six months into a three year plan and I am very happy with where we are with that,” he told City A.M.

The group has 1,378 worldwide stores, including 280 in the UK. Overseas, where Mothercare has plans to open 150 stores this year, like-for-like sales rose 4.4 per cent although growth in Europe, was hit.