Retailer Mothercare said there were signs of improvement in its beleaguered UK business despite posting a 5.9% decline in group sales in the first half of the fiscal year.

UK sales were down 8.3% in the six months to 13 October, with like-for-likes falling 3.4%, impacted by a programme of store closures, most of them Early Learning Centre outlets.

However, like-for-like sales turned positive in the second quarter, and Direct in Home sales were up 0.9% after impressive second quarter growth.

Meanwhile, worldwide network sales rose 2.1%, thanks to a 10.8% increase in international retail revenues, led by strong performances in Asia Pacific and the Middle East & Africa.

“Our strategy outlined in May this year is showing early signs of progress,” said company chief executive Simon Calver.

“In the UK, we have put the customer back at the heart of what we do. This is already beginning to have a beneficial impact on like-for-like sales, which along with our online business have returned to growth.

“International continues to grow despite difficult trading conditions in the eurozone and adverse currency movements.”