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Mothercare moves to quit high street

Mothercare dealt a fresh blow to the UK high street as it unveiled plans to close 110 outlets and focus on out-of-town superstores.

Rents will be cut on a further 40 stores, the Watford-based group said, squeezing incomes for high street landlords even further.

The new focus will be on out-of-town Parenting Centres, which contain its Early Learning Centre brand.

Most closures will be stores where the lease expires over the next two years. Mothercare has 120 of these, which will limit the cost to £5m, it said. Total store numbers in the UK will decline from 373 to 266, with 102 of these set to be out-of-town Parenting Centres.

The group, which warned about weak UK sales in March, said it expects big savings from restructuring.

Its UK problems meant pre-tax profits fell from £32.5m to £8.8m in the year to March, despite another strong performance from its international business, where sales jumped by 16%.

Mothercare's announcement comes a day after retail guru Mary Portas launched a campaign to rejuvenate local shopping in Britain.

Town centre vacancy rates have doubled over the past two years, said Ms Portas, who will advise the Government on how to increase the number of small and independent retailers to tackle the problem of vacant shops.

Mothercare has already reduced its in-town estate by a quarter in the last three years.

As well as reducing its exposure to the high street, Mothercare will invest in the remaining estate and has developed new store formats, one for Mothercare and one for the Early Learning Centre, which it will trial presently.

Belfast Telegraph