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Reuters

Mothercare has confirmed it is closing 50 stores as part of a rescue plan, a move that will put 800 jobs at risk.

The baby products retailer, which said it was in a “perilous” financial position, has also agreed a rent cut with landlords for 21 of its stores.

The store closures will leave it with 78 outlets in the UK by 2020.

The company also said it would reappoint the chief executive who left in April following poor Christmas trading and a profits warning.

Mark Newton-Jones was sacked by the then chairman Alan Parker – who has himself subsequently stepped down.

Former Tesco executive David Wood who had taken on the chief executive role and is just over a month into the job, will become group managing director.

In a statement, Mothercare said: “Recent financial performance, impacted in particular by a large number of legacy loss making stores within the UK estate, has resulted in a perilous financial condition for the group.”

The retailer has already nearly halved its store numbers over the past five years. It had intended have 92 outlets by 2023, but has now accelerated its closure plans and will have just 73 by that year.

The plan to close stores and cut rents is being carried out through a company voluntary arrangement (CVA).

The CVA, as is standard, will need the support of its creditors. One of these, the Pension Protection Fund, has already said it will vote in favour.

As part of its restructuring, Mothercare has also arranged a refinancing package worth up to £113.5m, which includes £28m raised through issuing new shares, and an extension of its existing debt arrangements.

Mothercare chairman Clive Whiley said: “These measures provide a solid platform from which to reposition the group and begin to focus on growth, both in the UK and internationally.”

‘Unforgiving’ climate

CVAs have become widespread this year as a sheaf of major High Street names have had to undergo deep changes in the way they operate.

Earlier this year, toy store chain Toys R Us collapsed into administration, as did electronics retailer Maplin.

Carpetright has entered into a CVA and announced store closures, as has fashion chain New Look.

A number of reasons have been cited for failures on the High Street, including a squeeze on consumers’ income, the growth of online shopping and the rising costs of staff, rents and business rates.

Richard Hyman, retail adviser and consultant, told the BBC’s Today programme that Mothercare’s problems went back years.

“I think Mothercare has not really delivered on the promise implicit in the name, in trading terms, for generations really,” he said.

“Nothing can sum it up quite as well as the fact you can’t get a pram round the store.”

He added that this has become more of an issue as the trading climate is now “so much more unforgiving”.