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M&S grows kids' own brands

Marks & Spencer is extending its Limited and Autograph ranges into kidswear as it continues to gain ground in the category, with market share by volume up by a third.

It is considering launching an Autograph range for boys and girls for next year, after making significant improvements in kidswear. The retailer captured a 4.1% volume share of the kidswear market for the six months to April 1, up by 32% on last year.

Head of menswear design Jeremy Armstrong said M&S's traditionally smarter boys' styling, known internally as the Ed collection, would be moved over to Autograph, most likely by next spring. "People used to say we didn't offer the choice in boyswear, but we now have something for everyone," he said. "Autograph works for boys because the big trends are now less scruffy. In menswear, battered T-shirts are giving way to smarter looks and the same is happening in boyswear. It means we need better fabrics and better attention to detail."

He said many parents who already bought into Autograph would appreciate dressing their kids in the brand. "Autograph forces us to raise the bar internally," he added. "If we have permission to put the Autograph label on a range then we have to be true to the brand; we can't dilute it."

Although details of the range are yet to be finalised, Armstrong said prices were likely to be about £2 higher than the core kidswear line.

M&S has already launched Limited into girlswear and will introduce Limited babywear for autumn. Mini Limited will launch in 40 stores, making the brand available for girls from birth to age 14.

Although there will be no Autograph labelling this year, head of design Helen Low said there were 10 styles in the autumn girlswear range designed with the new Autograph Exclusive own label in mind. "Autograph Exclusive is about not compromising; it's a designer's dream," said Low

She added that girlswear was a lot more vibrant for autumn than for previous seasons, following extensive work on its offer. "(Director of womenswear) Kate Bostock has had much more influence on next season. That's coming through on the level of detail."

Last week, M&S launched a kids' TV ad campaign to showcase its summer range.

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