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  • ‘Brands at M&S’ continues to gain pace - the store trial follows a successful online partnership with Early Learning Centre on M&S.com over the past year
  • Located in 10 M&S destination stores, the shops will offer a fun shopping experience for kids with interactive play tables

Today, M&S is announcing the arrival of Early Learning Centre ‘shop in shops’ in ten locations, providing a dedicated UK store presence* for the award-winning early years toy specialist. 

Opening at the end of March, customers will be able to visit Early Learning Centre in M&S stores across the UK including Kent, Longbridge and Liverpool. The openings come just in time for Easter, the second biggest peak in the retail calendar, where last year Brits spent £1.2billion**.

The new dedicated areas will stock Early Learning Centre's best-selling toys designed to support children’s learning and development. They will also be home to interactive play tables, complete with Happyland products and free activity sheets for children to enjoy.

Brands at M&S

The partnership with Early Learning Centre is part of the ‘Brands at M&S’ strategy which offers customers access to a carefully selected group of brands and all of the advantages of shopping with the M&S platform. The brand curation, which is predominately online, is a mix of complementary products and areas M&S doesn’t have an extensive own brand range – such as toys. 

This store trial follows the launch of Early Learning Centre on M&S.com at the end of 2020 where the product offer has proved popular. The average online basket size for brands is more than twice the average for M&S.com and to date over 65% of orders for an Early Learning product include M&S Clothing.

Appealing to Family Shoppers

Early Learning Centre is one of several brands that has been bought onto the M&S platform to appeal to parents, with a complementary and convenient offer. These brands which include Clarks kids’ shoes and Smiggle support M&S’s focus on kidswear, where the team has made a strategic shift from ‘special occasion’ clothing to everyday style and value. Last year 1 in 4 M&S customers shopped kidswear – an area in which M&S is growing market share. As part of offering a seamless shopping experience for families, M&S has also introduced a number of family favourite initiatives such as Kids Eat Free in Half Term in its cafes.

Neil Harrison, Director of Brands at M&S, said: “The customer response to Early Learning Centre on M&S.com over the past year has been incredibly positive. 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 22m customers more reasons to shop with us. As Brands at M&S continues to gain momentum, this is just one example of how we are shaping the future of M&S, helping us become more relevant, more often to families.”

Mark Campbell, CEO of The Entertainer, said: “We are absolutely delighted to announce that we are extending our partnership with M&S into stores, continuing to unite two of the UK’s best loved brands. The fit between them is clear and we are sure that M&S customers will be thrilled to see Early Learning Centre in store.”

Early Learning Centre will open in 10 stores across the UK: Bluewater, Stratford, Banbury Gateway, Cheshire Oaks, Lisburn, Thurrock, Metro Centre, Liverpool, Longbridge and Plymouth

The Early Learning Centre range will continue to be sold on M&S.com and will be available for next day delivery or Click & Collect to over 700 M&S locations.

- ENDS –

*In March 2019, Early Learning Centre was acquired by The Entertainer. Selected Early Learning Centre products are sold within a small number of The Entertainer stores, however, this is the first time Early Learning Centre will have dedicated store zones on the UK High Street since 2020.

**According to Statistica, in 2021, spending on Easter celebrations in the United Kingdom (UK) reached 1.22 billion British pounds, according to estimates, growing at a rate of 14 percent on 2020. In 2019, this figure amounted to 877 million British pounds

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For further information, please contact:

Corporate.Press@marks-and-spencer.com

Note to Editors:

Brands at M&S Timeline

• September 2020 – The first Clothing brand went live on M&S.com – Nobody’s Child (M&S then purchased a minority stake of the eco-conscious fashion brand in November 2021)

• November 2020 – Early Learning Centre launched on M&S.com

• January 2021 – M&S purchased its first brand – Jaeger – for £6m, (Jaeger then relaunched under the leadership of Fiona Lambert in October 2021)

• March 2021 – ‘Brands at M&S’ officially launched introducing several clothing brands including Seasalt, Sloggi and Sosandar.

• June 2021 – Children’s footwear brand Clarks launched on M&S.com and in 8 stores across the UK

• September 2021 – School and leisure essentials retailer Smiggle launched on M&S.com and in 8 stores across the UK

About Early Learning Centre

Early Learning Centre was established in 1974 by John Beale, whose vision was born out of a personal frustration – he simply couldn’t find sufficiently inspiring toys for his own children.

In March 2019, Early Learning Centre was acquired by The Entertainer with a clear vision; to support parents with their child’s early years learning and development through play.

They are committed to creating quality products and bringing innovation through new product design, as well as continuing to make the much loved and trusted toys we all know and love.