Mothercare’s underlying pre-tax profit rose from £5.9m to £9.5m in its full year, hitting market expectations as it continues its UK turnaround.

The mother and baby specialist retailer recorded a 2.6% dip in total group sales to £724.9m in the 52-week period to 29 March 2014. Bu group loss before tax after exceptional and non underlying items was £26.3m.

But the UK business continued to struggle as underlying losses narrowed slightly, posting a 0.5% improvement on the prior year to £21.5m. Mothercare UK recorded a 1.9% fall in like-for-like sales against a 3.6% slip the previous year and total UK sales fell 7.5% to £462.3m.

International performed better, with underlying profit up 7.6% to £45.3m and total international sales up 6.4% to £729.2m.

Mothercare chairman Alan Parker said a recovery of its performance in the fourth quarter has meant Mothercare has delivered full-year results in line with expectations set in January.

Parker added: “In the UK, we have continued to close loss-making stores and operate a leaner business. The market remains competitive and our teams are working hard to deliver an improved product range that offers even better value for money for our customers and an improved multi-channel service.”

Mothercare closed 35 UK stores in the period as it undergoes a turnaround, taking the store estate to 220. It said online sales now account for 29% of total sales and a third of online orders are collected in store.

It has been investing in its UK stores and in recent weeks has started to trial a clothing focused format.

Parker added: “Underlying group profits are up on last year, but there is a lot more to do. The chief executive search is progressing well. I am determined to achieve our goal of returning the UK to profitability, growing our International business and building shareholder value over the long-term.”

Former Shop Direct boss Mark Newton-Jones is the current interim chief executive of Mothercare.

Internationally Mothercare increased space 13.1% with 1,221 stores in 59 countries.

“Despite the increasing effect of currency devaluation on reported numbers, we have seen good growth in International, both in retail sales and profits with all four regions contributing strongly. In conjunction with our franchise partners, we have good visibility of future plans, which continue to show double-digit space growth,” Parker added.