Retail news round-up on January 27, 2014: Mothercare to sell Early Learning Centre, Russian chain Lenta mulls London stock market float, M&S bolsters team with two hires from Inditex, Shop Direct to make £50m profit and River Island uses Maxymiser

Mothercare may sell troubled Early Learning Centre toy division 

Baby products retailer Mothercare is considering the sale of Early Learning Centre, its struggling toy division, according to reports. The Telegraph reported that the company has initiated talks with a number of potential buyers after the division posted disappointing pre-Christmas trading figures. Investment bank Lazard has reportedly been hired as an adviser for the divestment of the Early Learning Centre’s 40 UK outlets.

Russian chain Lenta mulls potential London stock market flotation

Russian hypermarket chain Lenta is planning to float on theLondon Stock Exchange with a possible stock market listing before the end of February that could raise at least $1bn, Reuters reported citing two financial market sources. One source close to the deal said there is no decision yet, while another source also said the deal was planned for February. The retailer is part-owned by US private equity firm TPG and Russia’s VTB Capital.

M&S hires two people from Inditex

UK high street chain Marks and Spencer has picked Spanish retailer Inditex for a fresh series of hires as it looks to boost its overseas business, the Financial Times reported. The retailer has appointed former Inditex human resources director for Asia, Maria Rodal, as its China country manager. That follows the autumn hire of Maria Ventin from a commercial role at Zara to head M&S’ international general merchandise operations, which include clothing and home furnishings.

The two most recent appointments underline chief executive Marc Bolland’s attempts to internationalise M&S as it looks to widen outside its core UK market. This also marks a departure of a series of top managers from M&S, including womenswear buyer Gillian Ridley Whittle and head of lingerie Janie Schaffer.

Shop Direct set to make £50m profit

Shop Direct is poised to record nearly £50m in pre-tax profit this year, putting the retailer in the same growth league as rival etailer Asos, the Financial Times reported. For the year to June 30, the company recorded pre-tax profits of £6.6m. But rapid growth from brands like Very and Isme may push operating profits at the group to between £25m and £30m in 2015.

Shop Direct would no longer be hit by amortisation charges of about £20m related to the group’s buyout of the catalogue division of GUS in 2003, if the company goes ahead with an accounting switch to IFRS standards. This would feed through to the group’s bottom line, pushing it to nearly £50m, analysts estimate.

River Island selects Maxymiser to understand customers’ cross-channel behaviours

River Island has chosen optimisation programme Maxymiser to boost its understanding of its consumers’ cross-channel behaviours to increase incremental business revenue, The Drum reported. River Island’s initial campaigns will inform the rest of its optimisation roadmap, with the first wave of activity focusing on the main site.

The retailer will also be working with Maxymiser to streamline its new responsive design-based mobile and tablet sites and its international sites. River Island e-commerce development manager Helen Colclough said: “An optimisation programme is the only real way that you get to understand what your customers are doing.”