For more than half a century it has been the first stop for many new parents seeking all the things their baby could ever need.

From prams to bibs and bodysuits, Mothercare was an ever-present source of support for mothers and fathers finding their way through their little one’s early years.

But the retail chain has now announced its days on the high street may be numbered and yesterday said it plans to enter into administration, putting about 2,500 jobs at risk.

Plummeting profits and a dwindling customer base have been blamed for the store’s continuing problems, while experts said it had failed to properly adapt to the new online shopping environment or the threat of competitors eating away at parts of its core business.

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The slide into administration is a long way from Mothercare’s heyday in the 1980s and 90s, when the firm was an ever-present on high streets and grew to 350 outlets.

Launched by entrepreneurs Selim Zilkha and Sir James Goldsmith in 1961 following the takeover of nursery furniture-maker W J Harris, Mothercare was part of a revolution on the high street.

Taking the department store ethos of providing many products under one roof and applying it to the specialised area of childcare, the chain initially focused on pushchairs, nursery furniture and maternity clothing before expanding to include children’s clothing for children.

Over the years its stock expanded to cover virtually everything related to childcare, including maternity clothing, feeding and bathing items, travel supplies, toys and safety equipment.

It also offered services such as prenatal scans, and was among the first businesses to construct purpose-built breastfeeding rooms to offer mothers privacy.

One mother, Lydia Robinson, 28, said she “couldn’t live” without Mothercare.

She added: “I’ve used Mothercare from the moment I found out I was pregnant in March 2018.

“I have bought his pushchair, high chair, Moses basket, clothing, walker and all bathing and feeding items from the store.

“It’s a unique high street store with everything you need throughout pregnancy and, once your baby has arrived, there’s nowhere else like it. Losing a store like this would be a massive loss.”

However, despite the fondness many parents had for the chain, the company has been struggling for several years.

Mothercare had already closed 55 stores over the past year in a desperate attempt to keep the business afloat.

In July, it said it was making progress through its Company Voluntary Arrangement restructuring plan but saw UK profit margin improve slower than forecast due to the difficult retail backdrop.

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UK sales were decimated by the raft of closures, driving total sales down by 23.2 per cent for the 15 weeks to July.

Earlier this year, Mothercare UK also offloaded its Early Learning Centre business to rival toy business The Entertainer for £13.5 million.

Announcing the decision yesterday Mothercare said its 79 UK stores, which will continue to trade as normal during administration, were “not capable of returning to a level of structural profitability”.

Leigh Sparks, Professor of Retail Studies at Stirling University, believes Mothercare’s problems had been growing for some time. He said: “Mothercare has been staggering on for quite a while.

Some of its problems come from being the market leader, and then struggling to adapt when change comes.

“Not just struggling to adapt to online, which is affecting all retail, but it also failed to deal with the emergence of other competitors on the high street taking away parts of their business.

“It used to be you would go to Mothercare for everything baby-related, but then stores such as Halfords became the place people bought car seats, while supermarkets offered cheaper children’s clothes.

“Other retailers were picking off parts of their business and Mothercare did not know how to respond.”

The firm said the decision to appoint administrators was “a necessary step in the restructuring and refinancing” of the group.

“Plans are well advanced and being finalised for execution imminently. A further announcement will be made in due course,” it said.