Mothercare’s like-for-like sales in the UK slipped in its fourth quarter, but the performance of its international business remained strong.
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In the 12 weeks to 26 March, the group’s total sales were up by 11.4%, driven by international sales, which rose 12% at constant exchange rates. However, UK like-for-likes fell 2.4% excluding VAT. Total UK sales were up 4.7, driven by Mothercare’s new wholesale business, but chief executive Ben Gordon was cautious about the UK market.
“The UK trading environment remains difficult with weaker consumer demand and lower footfall,” he said, adding that UK gross margin had been affected by the difficulty of clearing Autumn/Winter stock.
Over the full year, total group sales were up 3.6%, with UK sales flat but the growth of the Asia-Pacific region - which includes Mothercare’s joint ventures in India, China and Australia - particularly strong. Mothercare now has 894 stores overseas, incuding 62 in India, compared with 373 in the UK, and Gordon said that in the new financial year the company planned to open at least 150 new overseas stores.
However he warned that the profitability of the UK retail operations would be under “significant pressure” and that the company was looking for further opportunities to save money through its property portfolio. The company reports full year results in May.