Belfast Telegraph

Bumper Black Friday helps boost Mamas & Papas pre-Christmas sales by 11%

Premium nursery and maternity retailer Mamas & Papas is cheering a double-digit sales increase in the run-up to Christmas, saying that investment in new products and e-commerce is "paying off".

The company reported an 11% rise in like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to December 25, thanks in part to a bumper boost on Black Friday when online sales beat the previous record by 29%.

The launch of a new Ocarro stroller also helped increase sales across its 32 UK stores, the retailer said.

Chief executive Jonathon Fitzgerald said: "These are encouraging results and show that our investment in new formats, new product launches and in digital is really paying off."

Mamas & Papas said personal shopping - which sees dedicated staff assist customers throughout their visit - now accounts for 10% of UK store sales, with the average customer aided by a personal shopper spending £800 on average per visit. That is up 1% from a year earlier.

In total, like-for-like store sales b etween April and December 25 2016 rose 10%, while online trade jumped 13%.

Recently filed earnings for the Mamas & Papas holding company, which includes international operations, saw operating profits nearly quadruple to £5.5 million in the year to March 27 2016, compared with £1.4 million a year earlier.

It comes amid a major overhaul for the business, which saw the number of physical stores in the UK nearly halve to 32 over the year.

However, the UK business still managed to post a 20% jump in like-for-like retail sales last year, while online sales were up 12% at £20.7 million. Total British sales fell slightly from £107.8 million to £99.8 million.

The results are good news for the retailer, which was bought by private equity firm BlueGem Capital Partners in 2014 when the company was struggling amid online competition and hefty rent bills.

But in November, the Telegraph newspaper reported that BlueGem was looking at selling the business in the new year.

Both BlueGem and Mamas & Papas declined to comment.

Commenting on the latest trading update, Mamas & Papas chairman Derek Lovelock said: "In a tough retail climate, our team has successfully completed the turnaround phase at pace, returned the business to growth and profit, and re-positioned Mamas & Papas as the nursery brand for millennial parents.

"With economic growth likely to slow and uncertainty over the course and outcome of Brexit set to continue, trading conditions are unlikely to improve much in 2017, but we can look forward to the future with confidence and cautious optimism."