Mothercare defiant as sales firm

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MOTHERCARE lifted some of the gloom surrounding the company by revealing a more resilient UK sales performance so far this year.

The retailer, which has 220 stores, said like-for-like sales were just 0.3 per cent lower in the 12 weeks to March 29, against a 1.9 per cent fall for the whole financial year.

Chairman Alan Parker described the performance as encouraging following the profits warning issued in the wake of poor Christmas trading. In February, chief executive Simon Calver left the group after less than two years in charge.

Mothercare shares jumped 14 per cent after yesterday’s update, which also showed improved underlying trading at its international business.

In the UK, Mothercare said it continued to close loss-making stores and develop its multi-channel business, with the mix of sales attributable to its Direct internet operation rising to 29 per cent from 25 per cent in the previous year.

The UK business, which made a loss of £21.7m during the 2013 financial year, has been hampered by price wars in home and travel goods.

Mr Parker said: “After a difficult third quarter, it is encouraging to note that we have seen some improvement in trading.

“We remain profitable at group level and are focused on eliminating UK losses while also continuing to exploit our growth potential across our international markets.”