Simon Calver has certainly had a busy first six months at the helm at Mothercare – and he’s already seeing results.
The retailer has stemmed losses in its first half and sales trends are starting to improve – it even crept into UK like-for-like growth in its second quarter, following ten consecutive quarters of decline. He’s making Mothercare’s turnaround seem like child’s play.
However, Calver isn’t resting on his laurels. “It’s still a loss. We recognise that and are focused on getting the UK back to profitability,” he says.
Already Calver has managed the retailer’s website relaunch, debuted its new store format, developed new fashion lines such as Jools Oliver’s Little Bird collection and, perhaps most significantly, lowered its prices.
The retailer, which has been floundering in the UK for some time, has suffered at the hands of Amazon and the grocers, which have eaten away some of its share of the maternity market.
One of the main reasons it has lost share was its inability, or unwillingness, to compete on price with these players which took its toll on sales. The retailer had its fair share of footfall; 90% of pregnant women visit a Mothercare store yet this wasn’t converting into sales as better deals were available elsewhere.
However, Mothercare has now upped its game and is ready to fight back. Lowering prices has had an immediate impact on sales and it has had to re-buy stock for its value lines because of its popularity.
The retailer had initially made this move in clothing but is widening this to big ticket items such as home and travel, where Calver says it is already making market share gains.
His moves to improve the Mothercare store environment is also making headway and he revealed to Retail Week that sales in its revamped Edmonton store are up 30%. However, Calver is still striving for more and says he ranks the store design at “about six or seven out of 10”.
Although the potential for growth is strong, Calver is not making false promises. He isn’t trying to spin a line about Mothercare’s “phenomenal turnaround”.
He points out that the small like-for-like growth last quarter was due to weaker comparatives last year and warned that like-for-like growth shouldn’t be expected over Christmas.
He’s cautious about the golden quarter and acknowledges how tough the market, so he’s ensuring he keeps his nose to the grindstone,
He says: “Sir Philip’s talked about people needing to stop whingeing and get on with things. That’s what we’re doing.”