Belfast Telegraph

Mothercare international performance 'mixed' despite UK sales boost

Retailer Mothercare has returned to UK sales growth over Christmas, but said its performance in international markets remains "mixed".

The babycare chain posted a 1% rise in like-for-like sales over the 13 weeks to January 7 as it was boosted by a strong online performance.

Online sales grew 5.5% over the festive period and account for around 40% of UK trade.

The UK turnaround comes after a 2.5% sales tumble in its second quarter, when sales were knocked by poor weather and a warehouse overhaul.

Chief executive Mark Newton-Jones said: "The UK returned to growth following the challenging summer trading period.

"We maintained our focus on product improvement and full price sales while prudent stock management allowed us to enter the end-of-season sale after peak trading with less stock than last year."

The weak pound offset tougher trading overseas, helping international sales surge 13.2%.

With the currency boost stripped out, international sales fell 5.9%.

Mr Newton-Jones said: "International continues to benefit from currency tailwinds, however underlying performance continues to be mixed in spite of many markets returning to growth."

Shares in Mothercare lifted more than 2% after the update.

The group said it saw sales recover in China and Russia over its third quarter, but trading remained "challenging" in the Middle East.

The group was knocked over the summer by unseasonable weather, which sparked heavy discounting across the high street.

Planned warehouse changes also disrupted the flow of products for around eight weeks in the summer.

Mothercare recently warned that prices may have to rise by between 3% and 5% from the middle of 2017 as it faces surging costs from the Brexit-hit pound.

Mr Newton-Jones said in November the group had negotiated with suppliers to reduce the price impact by a third, while the company itself will take on around a third of the extra costs, with the rest passed on to customers.