Mothercare returns to profit for first time since 2010/11

Mothercare has reported underlying profit before tax of £2m, putting the mother and baby specialist back in the black for the first time since 2010/11. UK sales were down 1.4 per cent - better than the 3.4 per cent decrease seen last year. The retailer said: "We continue to target a return to profit in the UK and the reduced UK operating loss this half year is a step in the right direction." Shares climbed on the news this morning.

In the 28 weeks to 12 October, worldwide network sales were up 4.4 per cent to £637.7m. Total international sales were up 13 per cent, although total UK sales were down 7.5 per cent. The reshaping of its UK business saw the closure of 18 loss-making stores and refits in others.

The store improved its retail area, with international space up 11.9 per cent, with 1,156 shops in 59 countries. Underlying international profits increased 13.5 per cent to £25.2m. Chief executive Simon Calver commented that, "Despite trading conditions in some of our markets being challenging, International has continued to grow and losses in the UK are shrinking."

Europe, which is Mothercare's largest region, continued to grow in the period, with 475 stores in 27 countries. In the Middle East and Africa, the retailer has 317 stores across 13 countries. Asia has offered ongoing opportunities for growth, with 318 stores owned by franchise partners in the region.