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River Island makes a grab for kidswear

River Island is to take on rival Next and capitalise on the demise of Adams with the launch of a mini-me kidswear range across selected stores next month.

The retailer is set to launch a range aimed at three to 10-year-olds in store and online to grab a slice of the £4.6bn kidswear market, which research firm Verdict Retail forecast will grow 1.6% in 2010. The young fashion chain is thought to have identified a gap in the market for affordable, fast-fashion kidswear.

The kidswear market has been through turmoil in the past five years. Adams, the UK’s only specialist kidswear multiple, went into administration for the third time in three years last month after pressure from supermarkets and value chains, leaving a significant slice of the market up for grabs.

Drapers has learnt that administrator MCR has yet to find a buyer for the business, which has 125 stores and 18 concessions. Its estimated sales are about £70m.

Kidswear is normally less affected by a downturn than other sectors, as parents refuse to compromise on buying clothing for their children, making it an attractive sector for retailers looking for growth. Marks & Spencer and Next both said that kidswear had helped boost Christmas trading figures while New Look has kicked off an aggressive expansion of its fledgling kidswear offer.

Adams had adopted a similar strategy to that which River Island is expected to follow, attempting to be a “Topshop for kids”. However, it struggled to generate significant footfall, with parents opting for the convenience of one-stop shops.

Verdict analyst Maureen Hinton said: “Specialist kidswear retailers have to drive through high volumes to cover costs. Mid-market retailers like River Island that have a distinctive style should fare better because mothers buy the product themselves and will buy into the same style for their children.”

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