Marks & Spencer launched its M&S Baby brand this week. Retail Week looks at what retailers need to know about the new brand.

Why are we talking about this now?

Marks & Spencer launched M&S Baby on Monday in a bid to create a trusted brand in the market. It is opening shop-in-shops in six of its flagship stores in Bluewater, White City, Stratford City, Cheshire Oaks, Metro Centre andTamworth.

What does the brand offer?

M&S Baby is designed for newborns and babies up to 24 months, and includes items from high chairs and clothing to toys and breastfeeding kits. M&S has also launched a maternity range and has selected eight brands to sell: Avent, BabyBjörn, Dr Brown’s, East Coast Nursery, Joie, MAM, Skip Hop and Vital Baby.

Why has M&S chosen to launch into the baby and maternity category?

M&S seems to be hoping to take advantage of a struggling market - many maternity specialists have had a tough time of late. Mothercare has been struggling in the UK and is closing a number of stores as it undergoes a turnaround. Mamas & Papas is going through a company voluntary arrangement, having classed 25 stores as “currently unviable” and demanded a 50% rent reduction from landlords of those shops to safeguard its future. Meanwhile, Kiddicare has been sold twice and all its stores were shuttered after a move from online to physical stores did not work.

Verdict lead analyst Honor Westnedge says: “We recognise the opportunity for M&S. But one reason why Mothercare has struggled is due to competition from the grocers, Amazon and the department stores.

“So M&S is still going to be against incredibly high competition. Next is seen as a destination babywear retailer and John Lewis has got the service element and is a trusted brand.”

Will M&S’s customer base react well to the initiative?

M&S aims to target grandparents as well as parents with its offer, because is aware that its proposition tends to be popular among older shoppers.

But Westnedge believes M&S may struggle if it relies solely on grandparents gifting to the expectant parents.  

She says: “Grandparents are likely to buy clothing and toys but whether they will buy day-to-day products such as a cot and carrier I’m not so sure, unless they go with expectant parents to find a gift. M&S can’t rely solely on gifting, it will have to attract new customers who are slightly younger.

“But it’s a well-respected brand and it has a great high street presence. It will have to show it has has the breadth of range and in-store knowledge to get the customers in.”