Mothercare will trial two new store designs this autumn as boss Mark Newton-Jones seeks to revive the retailer on the back of a £100m rights issue.
While Newton-Jones aims to recast Mothercare as a “digitally led” retailer he expects stores to continue to play a pivotal role.
Cash raised from the rights issue will be used to modernize the estate, including refurbs, the closure of loss-making branches, and relocations - mainly to out-of-town premises.
Two new store designs will be piloted in Solihull and Gateshead. Newton-Jones said they would be works in progress, “not the finished item”, but he hopes ideas tested there can subsequently be rolled out.
Other in-store changes already being tested include the devotion of more space to clothing and footwear in particular locations – such as the Peckham branch - which have led to higher cash margin because of the product mix.
The retailer is also experimenting elsewhere with the introduction of a Costa coffee shop in one branch and a tea shop in another, as well as soft play areas for children.
Revamps of the stores form part of wide-ranging changes planned by Newton-Jones including improvements to Mothercare’s online business, the creation of a database that will enable more personal and prolonged contact with customers, product improvements and the restoration of margin.
Newton-Jones said that since joining he had visited Mothercare shops that “have not had a lick of paint since 1992”.
He said his plan differed from what had been done by former boss Simon Calver.
Newton-Jones said: “What happened then was a good job was done taking costs out.
“What didn’t happen was about retail basics – buying, product, new stores or refurbs.
“What we’re looking at today is radically different.”
Newton-Jones said: “This is a pivotal time. We’ve got the firepower to take the business to a different level, to turn it into a state-of-the-art business supported by fabulous stores.”