• Q3 total group sales down 7.4%
  • UK sales down 12.9%
  • International retail sales up 12%

Doubts have been raised over the future viability of Mothercare’s UK operations after the infant goods retailer reported further sales declines in its third quarter.

The UK-based company said total group sales fell 7.4% in the three months to 12 January, thanks to a 12.9% decline in UK sales and a 5.9% slide in UK like-for-like sales.

However, its international retail sales were up 12% and direct in home revenues rose 0.9%.

The UK sales decline was blamed in part on the company’s programme of store closures, reducing its UK roster to 269 now from 311 at the beginning of the fiscal year.

Mothercare said its three-year transformation and growth plan was “on track”, with chief executive Simon Calver hailing “solid progress” in the quarter.

“International continues to see double-digit growth and in the UK we have made further progress, closing loss-making stores,” Calver added.

“The transition to our new online platform has passed the test of peak trading, with direct in home growing at double-digit rates during December.”

However, Neil Saunders, MD of analyst Conlumino, said Mothercare faced “significant long-term challenges” in the UK, against competitive threats such as Kiddicare and John Lewis At Home.

“Unless UK performance starts to improve, question marks will increasingly be asked about the viability of operating in its domestic market,” Saunders said.