EARLY Learning Centre toy shops are making a playful return to the high street.
Marks and Spencer has revealed it’s partnered up with the brand to provide products and services within its own stores in a bid to boost its offering.
The toy stores – within a store – will be found at just 10 M&S sites, and these will open within weeks.
The Early Learning Centre outlets will include toys for sale as well as activity tables for children to interact with while their parents are shopping.
The introduction of the family friendly outlet is in an effort to get more parents and their little ones stepping through the M&S doors.
It’s also set to make the store “more relevant, more often to families,” according to M&S bosses.
Neil Harrison, director of brands at M&S, said: “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.”
Early Learning Centre products are already available to buy on the M&S website, but the move will be the first time they’re introduced into physical M&S stores.
It will also be the first time parents can step back inside a similar set-up in the UK, after the brand disappeared from the high street when Mothercare closed its doors in 2019.
You can still buy Early Learning Centre products from The Entertainer currently, but the toy giant doesn’t have dedicated store zones like the new M&S outlets will have.
Bosses at the parent company were just as thrilled at the new partnership though.
Mark Campbell, chief executive 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.”
At the end of March, parents will be able to browse the selections available at M&S Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, M&S Longbridge in Birmingham, and stores in Liverpool, Stratford, and Plymouth.
The outlets will also be popping up at Banbury Gateway, Cheshire Oaks, Lisburn, Thurrock and M&S Metro Centre.
As part of the high street shake-up, M&S is also introducing other outside clothing brands in-store.
M&S is planning to raise the number of locations selling Seasalt to 20, as well as introduce Nobody’s Child into nine stores.
That means 27 out of the company’s 284 clothing stores will have a least one other clothing brand available for shoppers to purchase from.
Online you can already shop from over 35 other brands on the M&S website, including an online catalogue that already exists of Nobody’s Child products.
M&S stores set to feature Early Learning Centre outlets
- Banbury Gateway
- Cheshire Oaks
- Metro Centre
The return of Early Learning Centre toy shops won’t be the only high street revival we see either – Toys R Us is planning on making a return next year.
It might not spell the end of shake-ups to come from M&S either, especially after it launched a dress hire service just before Christmas last year.
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