Mothercare 'wide open for a bid'

Maternity and baby chain Mothercare is once again 'wide open for a bid', according to analysts, after delivering another dismal trading update.

On Tuesday, Mothercare revealed UK like-for-like sales down by 2.1 per cent for the 28 weeks to October. Group sales grew by 0.7 per cent.

The retailer said that clothing continued to underperform during the period, but stocks were cleared through five discount stores opened specifically for that purpose.

Autumn clothing ranges are now selling well after a faltering start last month, according to Mothercare.

However, the store group's main focus has been on rectifying warehouse and distribution problems, which have hampered business for the past 18 months. Mothercare said that it has built up plenty of product for peak trading and is meeting volume and service requirements. However, costs are not coming down as expected.

Seymour Pierce analyst Richard Ratner forecast a loss of£6 million this year and profit of£4 million the year after, and said he believes several financial players are interested in the retailer. 'I think people will begin looking now,' he said.

Mothercare also confirmed new chief executive Ben Gordon will join on December 2. However, Ratner said his arrival will be too late to have any effect on this year's trading. He said Gordon's reputation is 'mixed'.

Mothercare recently opened a new-format high street store in Hammersmith.

- Store design: page 18.