M&S have launched a new shoe fitting service in time for the back-to-school season. According to the retailer, the initiative has been introduced as customers have identified a preference for more specialist advice when purchasing footwear. M&S is offering the new service to help ensure more customers are reassured about purchasing shoes from a non-specialist high street retailer.

The UK back-to-school market

Mintel estimates that the back-to-school market in the UK was worth £620 million in 2016, up 6.9% on the previous year.

Back-to-school is an increasingly challenging market for the clothing and footwear specialists to retain their share, as highlighted in Mintel’s latest research on the UK childrenswear market. While around seven in 10 parents shopped for back-to-school clothing and footwear at a supermarket, M&S has spotted an opportunity to make itself a one-stop-shop, and bolstering its footwear offer will make M&S more competitive.

Price remains the driving factor behind new uniform purchases for 61% of parents, and as supermarkets continue to battle it out to offer the best value for money, there has been a small decline in average spending on the category since 2015. However, parents say that quality and fit are also among the main factors when purchasing schoolwear.

Opportunity to improve online proposition

As part of the move, M&S has also created a printable fitting guide for parents who want to purchase shoes online. However, research suggests there is an opportunity to further strengthen its online proposition through improved sizing technology.

With one in five childrenswear shoppers interested in sizing technology that helps with buying clothes online, there is scope for retailers to introduce virtual reality fittings. This would make it easier for parents to buy children’s clothing, uniforms and footwear, which would in turn likely reduce the rate of returns.

M&S has a strong position in the UK back-to-school market. However, this new initiative confirms that the retailer wants to grow its share of the market. The move to bolster its in-store children’s footwear service not only aligns with the brand’s strengths in quality and fit, but is also likely to resonate with parents looking for the convenience of buying all their back-to-school pieces in one place.

Samantha joined Mintel in 2016, analysing and writing reports on the retail sector. Prior to joining Mintel, Samantha worked as a Fashion Analyst for EDITED, a retail technology company specialising in data software. Here she worked on the company’s retail data analytics, trend forecasting and runway coverage. She has a BA (Hons) in Fashion Marketing from Northumbria University.

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