Marks & Spencer Rethinks Kids Private Brand

Marks & Spencer, England’s biggest Clothing retailer, is changing its kidswear Private brand range to become a little less “special occasion” and more everyday style – as part of the retailer’s plan to broaden its appeal to busy family customers and grow market share in kidswear. The change is rooted in market shifts across all clothing areas and customer insight – with little ones telling M&S that ‘being comfy’ is their number one clothing requirement.

As part of the change, M&S has now removed its sub-brand Autograph from kidswear. Originally introduced in 2007 – Autograph in kids has focused on a more formal style of product in more premium fabrics – with sales declining over the past few years. M&S Kidswear is now buying fewer formal “party” dresses and suits are available exclusively in bigger stores and online, with the number of options available halved. Alongside this, casualwear options have substantially increased, with core products such as tees, sweatshirts, and leggings backed with bigger buys and bought with confidence. M&S Kids’ leggings sales have increased 20-fold, with the retailer now selling 25,000 pairs a month.

The casualwear items are now available year-round in a 3-for-2 deal. The simple promotion means a shopper can purchase three £6 cotton dresses for just £12 (£4 each) – fastening free and easy to pull on so younger kids can dress themselves, they come in a great mix of vibrant prints and block colors (with spots and unicorns as the bestsellers) – giving them broad family appeal. The popularity of the 3-for-2 deal continues to grow and M&S has now increased items in the offer from 60 to nearly 200 – products start from as little as £2.50 for cotton leggings with stretch. This has been well received by customers with kids’ daywear sales up 2.5% in the last quarter and sales for items in the bundle tripling. The 3-for-2 mechanic is also easy to shop on mobile with clear customer signage – crucial as 74% of Kidswear searches on the M&S website now come from mobile which is higher than any other area of M&S Clothing. For the first time ever, this January the deal has been supported by window displays in M&S stores to drive further growth and to shout about M&S Kidswear – the best value on the High Street. 

For Spring 2020, M&S has also introduced more focused ages/size breaks into its kids’ clothing allowing a more tailored offer for baby, younger kids, and older kids. Whereas previously a dress or joggers might be available from 3 – 16 years, the product is now clearly split into baby (0-3 years), younger (2 – 7 years) and older (6 – 16 years). The new age break décor and imagery feature more colorful signage and new photography that’s more fun and more stylish than ever before. 

Jill Stanton, Director of Kidswear at Mark & Spencer

Jill Stanton, Director of Kidswear at Mark & Spencer, “M&S Kids is changing to broaden its appeal to more family shoppers. We know we have parents shopping school wear, with 1 in 4 kids wearing an M&S uniform, but our wider Kids offer has been a bit too formal and not for everyday fun. Our new range is about being more playful – with fantastic fun prints, vibrant colors and the hard-wearing features that make them fit for playtime and fit to last. Customers have been noticing the unbeatable value of the 3-for-2 – but more importantly that it’s still the same M&S quality they know and love.”

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Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.