Mothercare defiant after store cuts leave it nursing a fall in UK figures

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The boss of baby products and clothing retailer Mothercare yesterday insisted its turnaround plan was on track despite struggling to attract Christmas ­shoppers.

The group – which launched a clothing range from Jools Oliver, wife of TV chef Jamie Oliver last year – said same-store sales in the UK were down 5.9 per cent in the 13 weeks to 12 January.

Total UK sales were down a whopping 12.9 per cent as the group pushed on with a programme of store closures to try and streamline the business. 
Experts said Mothercare, which now has 269 UK stores, was suffering as it faces strong competition from online retailer Amazon and the supermarkets, with Tesco this week launching an own-label baby and toddler brand called Tesco Loves Baby.

Seymour Pierce retail analyst Kate Calvert warned: “We do not believe Mothercare is an easy fix and brand repositions tend to take longer than expected.”

The group, which slumped to a £103m loss last year, said the third-quarter figures came against tough comparatives last Christmas. Strong international sales, up 12 per cent, should help the firm return to profit this year.

Chief executive Simon ­Calver, who was brought in to lead the turnaround plan involving store closures and a revamp of its website, said the group had made solid progress, despite a challenging consumer backdrop in the UK and eurozone.

“Our work towards delivering improved value, choice and service for our customers continues to make an impact and I am very encouraged by the new ranges and innovative product.”