// M&S will add Early Learning Centre concessions to a handful of stores at the end of this month
// The retailer is looking to increase its appeal to families with external brands, also including Seasalt and Nobody’s Child
Marks & Spencer is set to put Early Learning Centre toy shops and Nobody’s Child fashion in a handful of stores as it looks to bolster its appeal to families.
The department store retailer will open Early Learning Centre outlets, with activity tables for children as well as toys for sale, in 10 stores at the end of March, including at the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, Longbridge in Birmingham, and Liverpool.
Neil Harrison, the director of brands at M&S, said the move was part of an effort to become “more relevant more often to families” in stores, after testing Early Learning Centre products on its website.
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“We know a large proportion of our customers look to purchase kidswear and toys for family and friends. So, by bringing the Early Learning Centre brand – with fun and interactive experiences – to our stores, we’re able to give our 22 million customers more reasons to shop with us,” he said.
M&S first began selling external brands on its website a year ago, including Joules, Hobbs, White Stuff but since then the retailer has been experimenting with selling brands in 15 stores, including Clarks children’s shoes and Seasalt clothing for women as part of attempts to revive clothing departments by broadening its appeal.
Alongside the arrival of the Early Learning Centre, M&S is bringing more clothing brands into stores, more than doubling the number that sell Seasalt to 20 and taking Nobody’s Child into nine stores.
The latest move will put at least one clothing or children’s toy brand into 27 UK stores while M&S has 284 clothing stores in total.
Richard Price, the managing director of M&S’s clothing & home division, said the introduction of new brands could help bring in more shoppers and improve the perception of style at the retailer.
Last week M&S announced that Stuart Machin, the boss of its food business, would succeed Steve Rowe as chief executive, while Katie Bickerstaffe, who runs its clothing and home division, was named “co-CEO”, in an unusual leadership structure.