Marks & Spencer will add Early Learning Centre concessions to a handful of stores at the end of this month in a bid to bolster its appeal to family shoppers.

Child playing with building blocks

ELC activity tables and toys will be introduced to 10 M&S stores

M&S will open Early Learning Centre outlets, which will have activity tables for children as well as toys for sales, at 10 stores including Bluewater, Longbridge in Birmingham and Liverpool, at the end of this month.

The retailer will also add Nobody’s Child fashion lines to some of its stores as part of its strategy to expand its stable of external brands and broaden its appeal to a wider range of shoppers.

M&S began selling Early Learning Centre online in November, as first reported by Retail Week, and M&S director of brands Neil Harrison told The Guardian the success of this launch had prompted the retailer to launch the brand in stores to become “more relevant more often to families”.

“We know a large proportion of our customers look to purchase kidswear and toys for family and friends. So, by bringing the Early Learning Centre brand – with fun and interactive experiences – to our stores, we’re able to give our 22 million customers more reasons to shop with us,” he said.

M&S is also more than doubling the number of stores that stock Seasalt’s clothing range to 20 and adding Nobody’s Child to nine stores, meaning at least one third-party clothing or fashion brand will be available across 27 of M&S’ 284 clothing stores.

The retailer sells 35 external brands online including Sosandar, Smiggle and Jigsaw. External brands account for 3.5% of M&S’ online sales.

Managing director of the M&S clothing and home division Richard Price told The Guardian: “Beyond the commercial benefits, we’re excited by the role brands can play in bringing customers into the M&S ecosystem, complementing our own-label product. Customers who buy brands not only on average spend double but return to purchase 10 days sooner.”

M&S announced last week that chief executive Steve Rowe would be standing down and would be succeeded by the boss of its food business Steve Machin, alongside chief operating officer Katie Bickerstaffe as co-CEO.

  • Don’t miss the best of the week – sign up to receive the Editor’s Choice every Friday