Retailers picking up pace after squeeze

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The continued success of Sports Direct International and trading recoveries of Mothercare and Thorntons will place the retail sector in the spotlight this week.

Sports Direct is expected to post a 19 per cent leap in underlying profits to £287.3 million for the year to 28 April, while the City is pencilling in pre-tax profits of £215m. The firm has enjoyed a solid year, with sales soaring in the wake of rival JJB’s collapse.

Retailer Mothercare will update on turnaround progress when it publishes first-quarter trading figures on Thursday. The mother and baby goods store chain has been jettisoning loss-making outlets as part of a three-year restructuring plan, and could announce more closures at an update covering the three months to 30 June.

During the year to 31 March, Mothercare closed 56 UK stores – reducing its footprint by 7.2 per cent – to leave it with around 196 Mothercare outlets and 59 Early Learning Centre stores. The company is working towards a 200-strong estate by 2015, complemented by a stronger online division.

Chocolate retailer Thorntons will reveal further details of its trading revival today as its turnaround gathers pace.

The group’s fourth-quarter trading update comes after it confirmed earlier this month that full-year profits will beat expectations, thanks to a sales recovery and careful cost management.

It first upped profits guidance in April following a successful Easter, when it grew its market share to 4.7 per cent from 4 per cent a year earlier, with Thorntons branded UK commercial sales growing 
10 per cent to £27.4m.

Vodafone’s £9.1 billion move for Germany’s biggest cable operator, Kabel Deutschland, will be in the spotlight on Friday when the telecoms group reports first-quarter results.

The acquisition – which now looks unlikely to be ­derailed by rival interest from US media group Liberty Global – will boost the mobile phone giant’s ability to offer consumers bundled packages of telephone, broadband and television services.

The addition of Kabel Deutschland’s 8.5 million connected households would give Vodafone a total of 32.4 million mobile, five million broadband and 7.6 million direct TV customers in Germany.