Childrenswear holds key to M&S revival

The relaunch of Marks & Spencer's childrenswear range this autumn will be vital in attracting more key customers back into stores, analysts say.

The retailer has successfully attracted 45- to 60-year-old women customers, but still faces problems 'generating momentum' in sales to 30- to 45-year-old women, according to CSFB analyst Nathan Cockrell.

He said: 'This remains M&S's central challenge - to drive up new footfall among female customers, who make purchasing decisions across a number of product categories, rather than to increase its share of older customers, who have proven loyal despite (the retailer's) recent problems.'

Cockrell blamed 'two terrible seasons' of kidswear for M&S's failure to attract key customers. Of women who do their family's clothes buying, he said: 'If they go somewhere else to buy kids' (clothes) they may well do the clothes shopping for other family members at the same time.'

Cockrell added: 'The problem with the kidswear is that it has been too expensive.'

A more competitive children's offer this autumn could be used as a hook to catch the family shopper, he believes.

He said of the autumn range, shown to analysts last week: 'We think it unlikely that it will get the 30- to 45-year-old mother back.' The collection focused more on fashion than volume womenswear lines, he thought.