More bad news from Mothercare as store closures continue apace

Mothercare’s woes have deepened with the announcement that UK sales slumped in its last quarter.

The retailer reported a like-for-like sales decline of 11.4% during the 13 week period to 5th January, blaming “a combination of the difficult consumer backdrop and the aggressive discounting activity undertaken in the prior year that inflated sales in that period”.

The international business is showing signs of recovery, with sales down 1.1%. But worryingly online sales slumped 16%. "The fall in like-for-like sales was expected as they embarked on their store closure programme but the confusions that this is causing fur shoppers in the short-term is clearly a real cause for concern," said Catherine Shuttleworth, Owner of Savvy Marketing.

Mark Newton-Jones, Chief Executive Officer of Mothercare, laid claim to progress made with plans to ensure a more sustainable and ultimately profitable business. “Whilst the UK continues to be challenging, in part as a result of our planned restructuring, we are still on course to deliver the necessary transformation,” he insisted.

The UK store closure programme continues apace and is ahead of schedule, with 36 on course to close their doors for good, meaning there will be a total estate of 79 stores by the end of March.

"The UK business will now operate with the discipline of a franchise, allowing the wider group to focus on the Mothercare brand and making it stronger globally," Newton-Jones said.

Fighting talk, as is to be expected from the Mothercare boss. But, as Savvy Marketing's Shuttleworth points out: "It’s difficult to see what the retailer will look like in 12 months time. And whilst they try to restructure, their customer base - which has constant new entrants - are managing to bypass the brand and are satisfied elsewhere.”

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