Direct and international business soars
Baby and maternitywear chain Mothercare revealed UK like-for-like sales rose 1.6 per cent in the 52 weeks to March 31, following a successful transformation of the business.

UK sales were up 1 per cent to£411.4 million, and included Direct in Home, where sales soared 16.8 per cent to£23 million, and Direct in Store, which leapt 21 per cent to£24.8 million.

Mothercare chief executive Ben Gordon said: 'We launched our bespoke e-commerce platform, completed the move to our new national distribution centre, increased like-for-like sales in the UK and continued to improve margins. We also opened a record 62 international stores.'

The group said that the consolidation of its UK portfolio has continued, with one store opened, three stores re-sited, two of the largest stores downsized and seven stores closed.

Group sales for the year climbed 3.3 per cent to£498.5 million, compared with£482.7 million in 2006. Underlying pre-tax profits, before exceptional charges of£2.4 million and the stripping out of last year's 53rd week also increased 12.4 per cent to£22.6 million.

International revenue surged 30.2 per cent to£87.1 million, with franchise like-for-likes up 12 per cent.

Gordon added: 'With a strong platform in place, we are focusing on our growth strategy of specialism, efficiency and reach and are confident that the business will continue to develop strongly during the coming year. We also anticipate future growth opportunities from the proposed acquisition of Early Learning Centre.'

Seymour Pierce analyst Richard Ratner said: 'For the current year, we edge our estimate [of pre-tax profits] up from£24 million to£24.5 million and, for the following year, look to£26.75 million - but these estimates are before the acquisition of Early Learning Centre, which we believe will enhance earnings.'