• UK like-for-like sales up 1.9% during the quarter
  • Total UK year-on-year sales drop reflecting ongoing store closures
  • International retail sales down 8.3% in constant currency and up 2.2% in actual currency

Mothercare’s UK like-for-like sales edged up 1.9% in its first quarter but a poor performance in the Middle East caused its international sales to sag.

The baby equipment specialist’s total UK sales were lower in the fifteen weeks to July 8, year-on-year, reflecting its ongoing store closure programme. The retailer now has 147 UK stores. 

Commenting on Mothercare’s UK performance Mothercare chief executive officer Mark Newton-Jones said: “We have continued to make progress in the UK during the period.

“We have seen customers respond well to our end of season sale, which we entered with less stock than last year, and are achieving a higher sell through rate.

“Whilst online sales recorded a lower growth [up 3.3%] in contrast to higher sales growth in store, we don’t believe this represents an underlying permanent shift in customer behaviour.

“We are about to launch our autumn ranges, but it remains uncertain how consumers will respond to inflation.”

International

The retailer had a trickier quarter at its international division, with overseas retail sales sliding 8.3% in constant currency.

It said this was primarily driven by “continued weakness in the Middle East”.

During the period, Mothercare opened 26 new stores, but closed 43 as it exited markets where it has consolidated partners. It currently has 1,133 stores overseas.

Newton-Jones said: “The challenging economic conditions in the Middle East continue and are impacting overall performance, and so the outlook remains volatile.

“We continue to export our learnings from the UK as our business improves here, to support our partners with the modernisation of their franchise businesses, and see further opportunities for growth both online and in stores.”

Overall, the group said the performance was in line with expectations.

As revealed by Retail Week earlier this year, former House of Fraser chief customer officer Andy Harding joined Mothercare earlier this month in the same role.