Baby specialist Mothercare posted a 7.4% slump in group sales for its third quarter but boss Simon Calver remained positive of the “solid progress” made in the period.

Mothercare’s performsance across the 13 weeks to January 12 was pulled down by the UK division, with a 5.9% fall in like-for-likes as it closed 11 stores in the period. Mothercare now trades from 269 UK stores, down from 311 at the beginning of its financial year, and as a result total UK sales dropped 12.9%.

But sales at its online business, Direct in Home, edged up 0.9%, while December sales increased more than 12%.

Mothercare said the UK business’ transformation and growth strategy is on track, reporting better prices, new and innovative product and better staff engagement with customers.

The international division performed better however, posting a 12% surge in retail sales, rising to 14.8% at constant currencies. The performance was in line with expectations.

Mothercare opened 31 overseas stores during the quarter and now operates from 1,129 stores in 61 countries. Mothercare is targeting a 15% increase in retail trading space for the full year.

The retailer said trading in countries such as Russia and Turkey offset eurozone weakness, which delivered single-digit growth in the period.

Calver said: “We have made solid progress during quarter three, despite a challenging consumer backdrop for the UK and eurozone.

“International continues to see double-digit growth and in the UK we have made further progress closing loss-making stores.

“The transition to our new online platform has passed the test of peak trading with Direct in Home growing at double-digit rates during December.

“Our work towards delivering improved value, choice and service for our customers continues to make an impact and I am very encouraged by the new ranges and innovative product ready to go into stores for spring/summer 2013.”

In the 41 weeks to January 12, Mothercare’s total sales dropped 6.5%. UK like-for-likes fell 4.4%, while total UK sales declined 10.1%. International sales advanced 11.2%.