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Mothercare doubles fashion brands after successful trial

Mothercare has doubled the number of third-party fashion brands it stocks and increased the number of stores in which they are available as its turnaround plan gathers pace.

The business, which reported a 1.5% rise in total sales in the UK for the 11 weeks to March 28, has upped its brand count to 20 and has rolled them out to 60 stores, after a successful trial of third-party brands in 10 stores.

Chief executive Mark Newton-Jones told Drapers Mothercare’s fashion business was “gaining further momentum”.

“We are introducing more brands in store and online and continuing to push the architecture up. We now have 20 brands and they sit at the top end of our pricing structure and we are rolling them out to more stores.”

Bestsellers include Converse and Mama & Papas on kidswear, and in maternitywear Mamalicious and Envie des Fraises have performed well.

Newton-Jones said Mothercare will roll out a concept that was trialled in six stores last year, in which the percentage ratio of clothing in its high street stores was increased to further improve the margin, to between 20 and 25 shops this year.

High street stores typically comprise 40% clothing, 40% homewares and 20% toys. In last year’s trial, clothing was increased to 80% of the store, homewares 15% and toys 5%. As a result, the margin increased by 4%.

“We’ve seen a really good performance from changing the mix in those shops. It works well in smaller towns that used to have an Adams or Ladybird, so there are opportunities in some of our smaller shops,” Newton-Jones said.

He added: “We are going to refurbish the shops we trialled the concept in first which include Peckham [in south London] and Wood Green [in north London], to see the reaction to the new shopfit combined with the new product mix.”

Mothercare, which saw worldwide retail sales increase 11.4% on a constant currency basis but fall to 5.5% on an actual currency basis, credits more full-price sales with its success.

The retailer shortened its Christmas Sales period to three weeks starting on Boxing Day last year, compared with an eight-week Sale starting on December 10 in 2013.

Newton Jones said: “It’s driven by a concentrated effort on full-price sales. The result [of the shortened Sale] was it was more concentrated as there was pent-up demand. There was less Sale stock as we sold more at full price before Christmas and the clearance was better as we did targeted discounting rather than blanket cuts.”

@jillgeoghegan

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