Winter snaps Mothercare's growth streak

MOTHERCARE yesterday said "extreme" weather had hit trading, bringing to an end almost five years of quarterly sales growth.

The mother and baby products chain saw its first drop in sales in 19 quarters. UK like-for-like sales fell 1.6 per cent in the 11 weeks to 27 March, with heavy snow in January keeping shoppers away. It said the weaker-than-expected performance was offset by tight cost control and a strong performance overseas. International sales were up 19.3 per cent.

Chief executive Ben Gordon said: "It's very difficult to know what's going to happen in the UK and we're taking a cautious view."

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Retailers are worried that steps to reduce government debt, such as higher taxes and public spending cuts, could hit consumers after the general election, expected to be on 6 May. For the time being, many are benefiting from rises in disposable incomes after cuts in mortgage rates.

Department store chain John Lewis reported a 19 per cent jump in sales for the week ended 27 March. The firm's Aberdeen store was the only branch to suffer a fall, with sales down 7.6 per cent, year on year.