Marks & Spencer Kidswear shifts focus from “Special Occasion” to “Everyday Style” – retaining unbeatable “Hand-Me-Down” Quality

  • Reduced reliance on formalwear and focussing on colourful, casual clothing – Autograph sub-brand removed
  • Offering fantastic value for casualwear supported by marketing – sales of products in the 3-for-2 bundle offer tripled demonstrating early success
  • New product age breaks introduced offering more tailored product for both younger and older children and a better shopping experience for busy parents

M&S, the nation’s biggest Clothing retailer, is changing its kidswear product 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.

Autograph removed

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 amount 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 25000 pairs a month.

3-for-2 bundle now year-round – supported by its first ever window marketing campaign

These key casualwear items are now available for customers year-round in a simple 3-for-2 deal – offering exceptional value. The mechanic means a customer 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 colours (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.

New age breaks introduced

For Spring 2020, M&S has also introduced more focussed ages 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, product is now clearly split into baby (0-3 years), younger (2 – 7 years) and older (6 – 16 year). The new age break décor and imagery features more colourful signage and new photography that’s more fun and more stylish than ever before.

Quality retained

Whilst M&S is changing, its focus on quality remains the same with all items across M&S Kids designed to be “hand me down quality” with robust testing to ensure items can be washed at 30 degrees and tumble dried. Across Kids the cotton items that are incredibly popular in the 3-for-2 deal are all made from 100 % more sustainably sourced cotton – helping people and the planet*. This is particularly crucial given kids’ growing interest in the world around them which has been shared as feedback to the M&S team at kids’ focus groups.

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 schoolwear, 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 colours and the hard-wearing features that make them fit for play time 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.”

Note: *Autograph continues to be sold in Menswear and Womenswear as a sub-brand with a strong focus on quality fabrics such as cashmere, leather and silk. A selection of great special occasion kids clothing will still be available with the attention to fit, fabric and style that customers love for more special occasions, but it will now sit as part of the wider M&S collection.