Mothercare’s international presence in 50 countries is protecting it from a slowdown in certain markets, chief executive Ben Gordon has said.

The maternity specialist’s overseas sales continued to grow in its first quarter, rocketing 32.7 per cent for the 15 weeks to July 10. The uplift was despite markets such as Spain and Ireland suffering like-for-like sales declines.

Gordon said the scale of opportunity abroad remains massive. “We are under-spaced in pretty much all 50 countries so they all have huge growth potential,” he added.

Total group sales climbed 9.4 per cent. UK like-for-like sales growth of 5.1 per cent was ahead of expectations, helped by the timing of Easter and the warm weather.

Cazenove analyst Gillian Hilditch said international expansion is just one of several opportunities for Mothercare. She said: “The transformational ELC acquisition coupled with a significant UK property opportunity are resulting in a step-change in UK profitability, which could see profits growing by over 120 per cent over the next five years or, if management’s targets are realised, by even more.”

Despite the strong start to the year, Gordon refused to forecast an end to the downturn yet. “It is way too early,” he said. “No one knows what is going to happen next.”  

He said Christmas would be more important than ever this year and that there will be market share to gain following the collapse of Woolworths, which generated most of its sales over the Christmas period.