Strong sales in its international stores and Direct online and catalogue businesses have helped Mothercare Plc, the UK-based retailer of baby and infant products, to a 20.7% rise in first quarter sales.

Total UK sales were up 19.5%, the company said, with UK like-for-like sales at stores open at least a year rising 1.0%.

Direct in Home sales soared 77.7%, while international franchisee sales were up 50%, or up 9% on a like-for-like basis.

The company has a total 526 overseas franchise stores in 49 countries, and opened 32 new stores in the quarter, including its first store in China.

Ian Peacock, chairman said the positive first quarter performance reflects "the strength of the Mothercare and Early Learning Centre brands in the UK and around the world."

He added: "The multi-channel UK business has shown resilience in a slow economic environment, strengthened by the successful Direct operations."