Babycare retailer Mothercare Plc on Thursday (24 May) reported a 7.6% rise in full year profit, and said it had reached a "key milestone" in its transformation.

Pretax profit before exceptional items was GBP22.6m (US$44.8m) in the 52 weeks to 31 March, and sales climbed 3.3% to GBP498.5m.

Total UK like-for-like sales increased by 1.6% in the year and UK store like-for-like sales increased by 0.8%.

UK sales were helped by better online sales following the relaunch of its website in November, and the introduction of a premium clothing range into stores.

The Special Collection range "has been well received by customers in the 30 stores in which it has been trialled," the company said in a statement, adding that it will now be rolled out to the worldwide store portfolio.

In Mothercare's international markets, both total and like-for-like sales were up, by 27.9% and 12.0% respectively.

During the year the company opened 62 overseas franchise stores, bringing the total to 328 stores in 38 countries and international profits increased by 52.8% to GBP8.1m. The company plans to open 100 stores in India in the next five years.

Mothercare, which sells everything from baby clothes to pushchairs, announced plans to purchase the Early Learning Centre last month and is waiting for regulatory clearance from the Office of Fair Trading.

Chief executive Ben Gordon, said: "With a strong platform in place we are focusing on our growth strategy of specialism, efficiency and reach and are confident that the business will continue to develop strongly during the coming year."