Retailer Mothercare shored up its leading position in the mother-and-baby market today as it snapped up the Blooming Marvellous maternity brand.
Blooming Marvellous - which caters for mums-to-be who want fashionable maternity wear as well as offering a range of clothes and toys - was founded in 1983 as a mail order company.
Mothercare chief executive Ben Gordon plans to develop the brand within the business before eventually rolling out the Blooming Marvellous ranges across its stores.
Although its Spin pushchair and the Baby K range fronted by celebrity Myleene Klass are still proving popular, Mothercare's latest update continued the pattern of strong international growth and tougher conditions in an ``uncertain'' UK consumer climate.
International sales from its fast-growing franchise business were up 20%, but like-for-like sales at home were down 4.1% in the 15 weeks to July 10.
This was deeper than the 1.6% decline seen in the previous quarter as the group battled against comparisons with strong sales growth last year.
Mothercare is planning "cautiously" for the rest of the year but looking to bolster its UK performance by shifting towards more profitable out-of-town stores, which it believes will offset lower margins.
It is also launching a new clothing range in Boots outlets across the UK and Ireland on September 1, and hoping to follow up last year’s Retro Robot success with a new £35 space station toy which will hit stores before Christmas.
Mothercare is among the more defensive retailers, with hard-pushed parents tending to put spending on their children ahead of themselves. Mr Gordon added: "We are by no means immune but we are a little bit more resilient than others."
Shares fell 5% as markets reacted to the bigger than expected fall in UK sales. Singer analyst Matthew McEachran said: "The trading update highlights that UK conditions were tougher than we had anticipated in Q1, and management have indicated the need to invest further margin as a result.
"Although there are cost savings to mitigate some of this, and upward pressures from International, the combination of weaker UK sales and lower margin guidance will mean a cut to UK divisional forecasts."