500 Mothercare jobs at risk

Up to 500 jobs are at risk at struggling chain Mothercare after the mother and baby products retailer announced plans to overhaul working hours.

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The firm, which employs around 3,500 full-time UK staff in 220 stores, is in talks to cut the hours of 500 staff who work more than 24 hours a week, with workers who do not accept the change facing redundancy.

The business will also create 200 part-time jobs as part of its bid to put more staff on the shop floor at peak times such as Saturday afternoons.

Mothercare's turnaround plans were hit in February when chief executive Simon Calver resigned, six weeks after the company issued a profits warning due to poor Christmas trading in the UK.

The retailer said: "Mothercare is looking to increase the proportion of colleagues serving customers at our busiest times. As well as creating new jobs, this step will lead to changes in working practices for a number of our UK store colleagues and we are consulting with those affected."

Mothercare appointed Mark Newton-Jones, a former Shop Direct boss, as interim chief executive in March and is still looking for a full-time head.

At the group's full-year results in May it posted a 61% rise in underlying profits to £9.5 million, which includes its international business that covers 60 markets.

However, Mothercare's core UK business saw annual like-for-like sales slip 1.9% and total sales fall 7.5% to £462.3 million. The UK business reported an underlying loss of £21.5 million, compared to a loss of £21.6 million the year before.

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Mike Dennis said the group's turnaround programme, which has been in place for two years, is running out of time.

Mr Dennis said Mothercare might have to launch a deeply discounted rights issue or set up a joint venture to inject cash into the business.

Over the last six years Mothercare's UK store base has almost halved from 405 shops to 220, according to Cantor Fitzgerald.

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