Maternity and babywear retailer Mothercare saw sales jump by nearly 4% last quarter, proving that even if consumers are more reluctant to shell out for some things, they’re still going to buy nappies and baby buggies. You try telling a 1-year old that CDO problems in the US sub-prime mortgage market mean they have to cut down to two toilet stops a day.
Mothercare saw sales increase by 4.5% in the year to March 29, at a time when some of its more illustrious high street rivals have been complaining about a consumer spending slowdown. Chief executive Ben Gordon said that good stock control, changes to sourcing strategy, the contribution of the recently-acquired Early Learning Centre and a sterling performance by its international arm all helped to deliver a ‘strong performance’ from the group.
And it’s not the only business that’s bucking the general trend. Today Halfords delivered an annual sales jump of 4.2%, showing that our appetite for car parts and bikes doesn’t appear to have been affected by the general economic malaise either. Perhaps with the City in freefall, all those nervous investment bankers are trading in their Ferrari for a racing bike and a Fiesta with a decent sat-nav.
Being the glass-half-full sorts that we are, it’s always nice to see some good news at a time when doom-laden stories dominate the headlines – like today’s results from ailing retailer Moss Bros, which apparently lost £1.4m last year because of stiff competition from the supermarkets (and not because of its own various failings, you understand).
Perhaps the most likely outcome in the next few months is that the cream will rise to the top (as John Lewis appears to be doing at the moment) and the also-rans will fall by the wayside – unless they find some way to raise their game. Yesterday’s tie-up between fellow strugglers Woolworths and Somerfield (to sell each other’s products) was interesting in this regard – and not least because it featured the best mixed metaphor we’ve seen in ages, from Woolies’ CEO Trevor Bish-Jones. ‘We are going to suck it and see,’ he said of the joint venture. ‘If it goes off like a rocket we will do it quickly.’
Clearly Mothercare boss Gordon’s found some successful rockets, if today’s results are anything to go by...