Mothercare to create 400 new jobs

Mothercare will create 400 new jobs in the UK as part of plans for another 33 of its biggest format stores over the next two years, it said today.

The retail chain, which announced an 11 per cent rise in half-year pre-tax profits to £10 million, expects to open eight of the new Parenting Centres in time for Christmas. Another 25 will be opened by the end of 2011.

Mothercare currently has 82 of the out-of-town stores, featuring a full Mothercare and Early Learning Centre produce range, plus concessions.

Mothercare, which has 389 stores in the UK, has also identified 12 in-town sites where it plans to open new "landmark" stores in high-footfall locations in key shopping centres or shopping malls.

However, it also warned that 90 lower-profit high street stores with lease expiries within the next three years were under threat.

As part of the continuing restructuring of its portfolio, Mothercare said it would relocate the stores to more profitable out-of-town locations, seek to renegotiate rental payments or, as a last resort, close the stores.

It has already closed 63 lower-performing in-town stores in the first 18 months of its store overhaul programme, which followed the £85 million acquisition of the Early Learning Centre in June 2007.

Chief executive Ben Gordon said the Parenting Centres currently accounted for 40 per cent of store space and 65 per cent of UK store profit.

He added: "These are true parenting destinations and bring Mothercare and Early Learning Centre's widest ranges and expertise under one roof, to provide the best possible service for parents and parents-to-be.

Mothercare said the current property market offered advantageous lease terms and a chance to enter key catchments that had previously been difficult to access.

The eight centres due to open in time for Christmas are at Stoke, Newtownabbey, Poole, King's Lynn, Lewisham, Colliers Wood, Kirkcaldy and Yeovil.

The group said it had traded well in the UK, with sales growth of 2.7 per cent and underlying profits up 15.4 per cent in the six months to October 10. This was supported by a strong performance overseas, with retail sales up 29.6 per cent.

It opened 62 overseas stores in the six months, taking the number of outlets outside of the UK to 694.