New car seat law lifts Mothercare

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The new car booster seat law doubled the rate of underlying sales growth at Mothercare in the past three months as families rushed to comply with the regulations.

Without the lift from extra sales of car seats, like-for-like sales growth would have tailed off sharply during the retailer's first half. Shares in the group fell 5.25p to 353p.

Ben Gordon, the chief executive, said sales of car seats accounted for half of the group's second quarter sales growth of 1.4 per cent on an underlying basis. Although this looked like a slowdown from the 2.3 per cent in the first quarter, he said that, stripping out the distortion from a late Easter, the growth rate was broadly flat.

"Given how difficult the retail environment is, we think this is a really strong performance," Mr Gordon added. He said the group's prospects for Christmas depended on "whether the consumer plays or not". In the first 28 weeks of its financial year, underlying sales rose 1.9 per cent.

The retailer expects to hit its goal of opening at least 50 stores outside the UK this year after opening its 300th overseas outlet yesterday in Russia where it has 14 stores. It has grown quickly overseas by relying on franchise partners to roll out its brand.

In the 13 weeks to 14 October, its international sales grew by 27 per cent, helped by the 34 new stores it has opened so far this half. These include eight in India where it sees potential for 40 stores within the next three to four years. Mr Gordon said four-fifths of India's estimated 250 million middle class knew of the brand.