The Business On... Ben Gordon, Chief executive, Mothercare

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The Independent Online

Is he a new man?

What, because he runs a company that sells primarily to femalecustomers with ankle biters in tow? Don't be so sexist: Mr Gordon is a retailer – no more, no less.

So how's that going?

Pretty well, thank you. Mr Gordon took over eight years ago and must have wondered whether he'd made a mistake. The stores were drab, sales were falling, losses were piling up and he had to issue a profits warning just weeks into the job. Slowly, the business has been turned round – profits were up again in the latest half-year, the retailer revealedyesterday.

What's the secret?

A move upmarket has helped, with stores given a facelift and a big emphasis on customer service (new parents need a lot of help). Online sales have grown quickly and the purchase of Early Learning Centre a couple of years ago has proved a smart bet too. Finally, Mr Gordon has overseen an international expansion, with the brand taken worldwide. Yesterday's figures revealed that Mothercare's sales from 53 overseas countries are now outstripping the UK for the first time.

Something of a retail guru then?

He's becoming one, clearly, but in fact Mr Gordon qualified as a civil engineer and spent the early part of his career working for construction firm Costain in the Middle East. After an MBA at Insead, he changed direction, working for L'Oreal and WH Smith before heading up the Disney Store in Europe.

So he does know about kids?

Well, he has three of his own, though they're all well out of nappies. And flogging Disney merchandise probably did teach him a bit about this market. But the "mouse house" is in a completely different sector of the high street to Mothercare.

And in his downtime?

Well, he ought to be practising his buggy-building skills – Mothercare sells 500 different models online. Actually, he seems to be married to the job, although he does find time for a bit of sailing and skiing.