James Moore: Maybe having some mothers on board would help retailer?


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The Independent Online

Outlook “Mothercare” and “turnaround plan” go together like “baby” and “nappy”. The chain’s latest effort is going to cost shareholders £100m via a deeply discounted rights issue with the funds slated for debt reduction and a store closure programme.

Mothercare is an extremely rare beast on planet retail: it is a British success story overseas which can’t seem to do things right back home. Mark Newton-Jones plans to change all that by focusing on larger stores in out-of-town retail parks, with up to 75 high street outlets facing the bullet.

In theory it makes sense. Why visit a small Mothercare with a limited range on the high street when you can get the same sort of things cheaper at your local supermarket?

Mr Newton-Jones is also an experienced retailer, having run Shop Direct, the operator of Littlewoods and very.com, by contrast to his predecessor Simon Calver, who had joined from a very different business in LoveFilm.

Still, you can’t help wondering if Mothercare wouldn’t be better off with more of a connection to its customer base at the top of the business. It’s nine-strong board is two thirds male, including the key positions of finance director and chairman, as well as Mr Newton-Jones.

You can see the problem: none of them can ever become mothers.