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Mothercare Reports A Loss As UK Sales Fall

(c) Sky News 2012

Mothercare (LSE: MTC.L - news) 's chief executive insists the business is "on track", despite reporting another fall in UK sales.

Like-for-like sales in Britain fell 3.4% in the UK in first half of the year - although this is an improvement on the 7% slide seen a year ago.

Sales overseas, where the retailer plans to open 150 stores this year, grew by 4.4% in the six months to October 13.

Although sluggish demand in the eurozone - its biggest international market - hit the rate of growth outside the UK.

After one-off charges, Mothercare, which sells prams, car seats and childrens' clothing, reported a loss before tax of £27.4m.

Its (Euronext: ALITS.NX - news) underlying performance - if the one-off items are stripped out - was stronger, with its pre-tax loss shrinking from £4.4m to £0.6m.

New chief executive Simon Calver has been charged with cutting prices and improving Mothercare's delivery service to help it better compete with rivals, including supermarkets.

His three-year turnaround strategy saw the group close 31 stores in the UK in the first six months, with plans to close 19 more this year.

He told Sky News the results showed progress at the company, which has failed to keep up with its competitors over recent years.

"We've done a lot on the management team, we've done a lot on our products and the value we offer to the consumer," he said.

But he added that the group had expected sales to "take a while" to turnaround.

"Early signs are encouraging but we're definitely on track," he said.

Mothercare has over 1,300 stores across the world, including 280 in the UK.