Mothercare and Laura Ashley target overseas sales

The retail stalwarts Mothercare and Laura Ashley yesterday vowed to press ahead with their international expansion plans in the face of deteriorating trading conditions in the UK.

Mothercare – which opened 166 new stores overseas in 2010-11 – said it plans to open a further 150 this financial year, as its UK underlying sales fell by 2.4 per cent for the 12 weeks to 26 March. Ben Gordon, the chief executive of Mothercare, said: "The UK is an unsure and slightly nervous environment but international is booming." Similarly, Laura Ashley, the furniture and clothing chain, is set to open its first stores in Indonesia and India in the second half of this year through franchise partners. It will continue to "consolidate" its number of UK stores.

While Laura Ashley nearly doubled pre-tax profits to a record £19.3m for the year to 29 January, its UK retail sales fell by 4.2 per cent over the last eight weeks in the wake of a marked slowdown in consumer spending.

The gloom in the sector is unlikely to be lifted by the high street bellwether Marks & Spencer's fourth quarter trading update on Wednesday. According to consensus forecasts, M&S is set to report a 6.2 per cent slump in like-for-like general merchandise sales, primarily clothing, for the 13 weeks to 2 April, although it is expected to have grown its food sales by 1.3 per cent.

The retailer's UK underlying sales are forecast to fall by 2.5 per cent in the quarter, down sharply from growth of 2.8 per cent in its third quarter. But M&S is still forecast to make profits of £709m in 2010-11.

Mr Gordon lauded Mothercare's recent performance in China, Russia and Australia, but was particularly effusive about India, where it has 62 stores run by franchise partners. He said: "There is huge potential in India."

Mr Gordon explained that there are 24 million new babies each year in India, which has a population of more than 1.2 billion, but just 795,000 were born last year in the UK. Total sales at Mothercare rose by 10.2 per cent in the fourth quarter. But it had to discount to clear its UK winter stock, which dragged its gross margins down by 2.5 per cent over the year to 26 March.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Digital Optimisation Executive - Marketing

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's fastest growing, multi...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Reporting Manager

£70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...

Recruitment Genius: Payments Operations Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Debt Negotiator

£13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific