Mothercare is a specialist retailer of products for mothers-to-be, babies and children up to the age of eight. Mothercare opened its first store in 1961 in Surrey. Initially the business focused on pushchairs, nursery furniture and maternity clothing, but it subsequently expanded its range to include clothing for children up to the age of five and later up to the age of eight. It now offers a wide range of maternity and children's clothing, furniture and home furnishings, bedding, feeding, bathing, travel equipment and toys through its retail operations in the United Kingdom, and also operates internationally through franchises in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Far East under the 'Mothercare' brand name.
The business started its mail order business in 1962. In 1972, Mothercare first became a public company, and in 1982 Mothercare merged with the Habitat chain of retailers to form Habitat Mothercare plc. In 1984, Mothercare began to expand internationally through entering into franchise arrangements with select partners in chosen countries. In 1986, Habitat Mothercare plc merged with British Home Stores plc. During the 1990s the merged group was rationalised. In 2000, Mothercare became the sole brand and the holding company's name was changed to Mothercare plc.
In June 2007, the group acquired Chelsea Stores Holdings Limited, the owner of the Early Learning Centre (ELC) brand.
ELC was founded in 1974 originally as a mail order business offering toys and books with educational content. The first ELC retail store opened in Reading later the same year. In 1985, ELC was acquired by John Menzies plc who continued to expand the estate and ELC became a well-known high street brand. In September 2001, ELC was the subject of a management buyout, during which ELC streamlined its operations, exited non-profitable product categories and stores and grew its sourcing operation in Asia.
Gurgle.com, a social networking site for new mothers was launched in 2007.