Big edge-of-town retailers’ have been under pressure for some time, but can they be attractive?

News last week that Kiddicare had been offloaded by Morrisons and that the chain’s acquisition by investment firm Endless would probably mean that some, if not all, of the chain’s 11 stores would close, can hardly have been a surprise. These are huge shops and while there was quite a lot of brouhaha when each opened, complete with racetracks on which to test-drive the prams and pushchairs, ultimately these are large retail spaces.

And this is the point. Increasingly, the race back to the town and city centre and the partitioning of some of the large, out-of-town shops is symptomatic of shoppers no longer feeling entirely at ease with the prairie-like proposition that some retailers offer. Small, it would appear, really is beautiful, for the moment at least anyway.

Which rather brings Kiddicare into focus. This is one of those retailers that is posited on having everything in a single category under one roof. In a prior existence, this might have been called a category killer, but with the demise of outfits such as Comet, and Best Buy in this country, this is a term that probably doesn’t find quite such a willing audience, as might once have been the case.

The question is whether Kiddicare has not brought home the rusks because it was too big or perhaps because it had an inappropriate range? The answer may lie somewhere between the two, but it’s more likely that size has had more to do with it than not. Buying for a newborn or young child is, by its very nature, a fairly intimate thing and one that might seem to demand small, semi-private spaces. To an extent, Kiddicare understood this with its mother and baby rooms, but there is still the sense that shopping one of these shops is like roaming around a football pitch, not perhaps the most private experience in the world.

What therefore should be done if these stores are to remain viable concerns (and the likelihood for Kiddicare is that this may prove to be an academic exercise)? Well here’s a thought – why not substitute this retail Serengeti for a living room and a laptop? Wouldn’t that be better? But hang on, isn’t that where Kiddicare started? It is, and perhaps back to the future in this instance means doing that which the brand was good at in the first place. Big, edge-of-town stores are more than ever an acquired taste and those that have them need to consider how they can be broken into manageable-sized affairs.