Maternity specialist Mothercare has reported continued difficult trading in the UK but said measures to adapt to tough conditions here will bear fruit.

Mothercare posted a 4.3% like-for-like sales fall in the UK, excluding VAT, in the first quarter when total domestic revenues overall fell 1.8%.

However group sales advanced 4.9%, helped by a 15.2% increase in international turnover in the period to July 9.

Mothercare, which also owns the Early Learning Centre brand, now has 1,289 stores in 55 countries and will push into Latin America with store openings in Chile later this year.

Chairman Ian Peacock said: “We continue to make good progress with our strategy of focusing on the rapid global expansion of international whilst improving the efficiency of the UK business.

“In the UK the trading environment remains difficult and competitive, however our property restructure and cost reduction programme are progressing well.

“We are planning cautiously in the UK. However we are well placed to drive the performance of our two brands globally. This strategy will continue to create long term sustainable value for shareholders.”

Mothercare aims to reduce its UK portfolio to a more profitable rump of about 266 shops by March 2013 and said new trial formats “have been received well by customers”.

Mothercare’s direct sales advanced 2% in the quarter. The retailer is developing  a new web platform.