Mothercare reveals struggling sales

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The Independent Online

Mothercare sent further shockwaves through the retail sector today by revealing its UK sales were "well below" expectations.

The mothers-to-be, babies and children's goods retailer, which this year celebrated its 50th anniversary, said a downturn in consumer confidence seen following the UK riots continued to knock trading over the last month.

In an update which triggered a 25% slump in its shares, Mothercare said UK like-for-like sales were down 9.6% in the 12 weeks to October 1 and that the outlook for the all-important winter trading period had "materially worsened".

The group has 353 stores in the UK and another 969 overseas, where its operations have proved to be more successful.

Chief executive Ben Gordon said: "In the UK, trading conditions have become progressively more challenging and competitive, and our performance has been well below our expectations."

Mothercare said sales in the home and travel sector were affected by customers trading down on bigger ticket items.

Mr Gordon added: "Against the backdrop of this weakening trend, we believe that the outlook for the UK business in the important second half has materially worsened and this is likely to lead to a disappointing performance for the year as a whole."

Overall, group sales were 4.9% higher in the company's second quarter, helped by its strong international growth.

Mothercare recently unveiled plans to overhaul its UK retail estate, which will include 110 high-street store closures as the business focuses on out-of-town Parenting Centres, which contain its Early Learning Centre brand.