Mothercare sales drop as turnaround takes time to kick in

Thu Apr 11, 2013 2:34am EDT

LONDON, April 11 (Reuters) - British baby and maternity products retailer Mothercare posted a 4.8 percent fall in fourth quarter total group sales, as recent improvements to its British arm take time to filter through.

The group, which has some 1,300 stores worldwide including 255 in the UK, said on Thursday British like-for-like sales were flat in 11 weeks to March 30, compared to an 8.2 percent fall in the same period a year ago and a fall of 5.9 percent in the third quarter. [ID: nL5E8NJAQ7]

The fall in total sales reflects a higher levels of discounting and the ongoing closure of loss-making stores in Britain.

Overseas retail sales rose 15.5 percent, despite some weakness in Europe.

As part of new chief executive Simon Calver's turnaround strategy the group has closed 56 UK stores in the year to the end of March, ahead of its target of 50 closures.

Mothercare is improving its stores and delivery services as well as slashing prices in a bid to wrestle back cash strapped customers from supermarkets and online retailers.

It said total group sales for the year were down 6 percent but that its annual underlying profit before tax would be in line with market expectations.

Shares in the firm, which have doubled in the last year, closed at 292 pence on Wednesday, valuing the business at 260 million pounds.

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