Mothercare sales boost soothes City

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The Independent Online

Mothercare provided a shot in the arm for the embattled retail sector yesterday by revealing shoppers had returned to the high street over Easter.

Mothercare provided a shot in the arm for the embattled retail sector yesterday by revealing shoppers had returned to the high street over Easter.

The babywear retailer said Easter, seen as a "mini Christmas" for retailers, had boosted like-for-like sales by 100 basis points, turning a previously flat outcome for its fourth quarter into 1.1 per cent growth.

The upturn surprised the City, which had been braced for a disappointing trading update. Shares in Mothercare, which had slumped before the announcement, rose 11.5p to 276.5p.

Ben Gordon, the chief executive, said the market was "volatile and tough" and that Mothercare's progress was down to it "putting its own house in order". The group has transformed its fortunes since Mr Gordon took over two years ago by renovating its estate and overhauling its ranges.

Mr Gordon said the group was preparing to halt its refurbishment programme once it had completed its 100th store, while it decided how many of the remaining 60 it needed to close or relocate.

Underlying sales in the 24 weeks to 26 March - Easter Saturday - rose 0.1 per cent, while they were 1.3 per cent stronger for the full year. Sales from its international business rose 18 per cent, and gross margins increased slightly, in line with expectations.

The group has injected £10m into its pension schemes in an attempt to reduce its deficit, which was £18m a year ago.

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