MOTHERCARE surprised investors after its Jools Oliver and value ranges helped the parenting retailer return to sales growth in the UK.
After slumping into the red by £103m and losing its chief executive following poor sales, Mothercare brought in new boss Simon Calver to lead a turnaround involving store closures and a revamp of its website.
Shares in the group, which operates 203 Mothercare and 77 Early Learning Centres in the UK, rose as much as 20% yesterday as Calver revealed signs of progress in the UK.
The retailer saw same-store sales rise 0.3% in the 13 weeks to October 13, after a 6.7% drop in the first quarter, while online sales also bounced back to the black.
Calver said the chain’s value clothing ranges performed strongly, as well as the Little Bird clothing range from Jools Oliver, wife of TV chef Jamie Oliver.
Mothercare closed 31 stores in the first six months as part of its cost- cutting plan, against its target of around 50 closures for the whole year.
The wider group, which operates 1,098 international stores, saw total sales decline 7.5% as the impact of the UK store closures offset 10.8% growth overseas.
He added: “Mothercare always had one of the most advanced global growth strategies but heavy losses in the core UK business reflect a lack of domestic focus by previous management.”
After a difficult period, the company has recently sounded more optimistic, as it moves to reduce UK store numbers from 311 to 200 by 2015.
The new UK estate will comprise 95 out-of-town sites and 105 high street locations, while the closures should improve UK profitability by £13m by March 2015.
Mothercare predicted further growth overseas based on its forward order book and store opening plans.
The company opened a net 70 stores overseas during the first half of the year.