Mothercare, the British mother and baby products retailer, today reported a 12.4% increase in its year profit, raised its dividend by a fifth and said it was well positioned for further growth.

'Given the uncertain consumer environment we are planning cautiously for 2009/10. However, we are well placed as we enter the new financial year,' Mothercare's CEO Ben Gordon said.

But he reiterated that gross margins will come under further pressure from the weakness of sterling.

Mothercare, which trades from 1,014 stores in 51 countries, said it made an underlying pre-tax profit of £37.1m sterling for the year ended March 28. This was in line with the average forecasts and up from the £33m made in the previous year. It has 11 stores in Ireland.

Sales increased 6.9% to £723.6m, with UK like-for-like sales up 1.4% and sales from the international franchise business up 40.9%.

'This has been another strong performance from Mothercare group and as a result we have recommended a 20.8% increase in the total dividend to 14.5 pence,' Gordon said.

Many retailers worldwide are struggling as cash-strapped consumers rein in spending amid rising unemployment, falling house prices and fears of a long recession.

But Mothercare has bucked the trend as parents continue to spend money on their children even if they have stopped spending on themselves.

The firm is also benefiting from an aggressive international expansion, a fast-growing Internet business and the continuing integration of the the Early Learning Centre brand it purchased in 2007.

The group plans to open at least 100 overseas stores every year for the foreseeable future, focusing on the Middle East, Eastern Europe, China and India.