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Guest post: Consumer power! M&S release new clothes range for disabled kids

RitaRothwellRitaRothwell Posts: 17Member Connected
edited May 2016 in Guest blogs

In March 2015 my grandson Caleb reached the age of three. At that time his mum, Zoe and I started looking for suitable clothing which would fit him.

Zoe hugging her son Caleb on her knee and smiling

A gap in the market

After searching the high street stores and internet, to my dismay, I found that there weren’t any available. I tried parenting websites for advice, but soon realised that we could only buy them from specialist catalogues. Lots of parents and carers talked about how they had to buy from America, as even with postage they still worked out cheaper. Others were even using dressmakers to alter their children’s popper vests and sleeping suits by adding material so they would still fit.

Disability catalogues charge more because they are specially made. The cost of vests etc vary between £12 and £15 each and it was such a financial worry, since Caleb's mum gave up working to care for him full time. How was this clothing  going to be affordable for my family? If the items didn’t have to be so expensive, then Caleb could have more private physiotherapy, which is so beneficial for him. As yet he's unable to crawl, sit, stand, walk or even have full control of his head, but he’s a little star and tries so hard.

A lightbulb moment

I began thinking that if high street stores could make popper vests for not much more than £1 each, why can’t they make them bigger? After all it’s only a little bit of extra material.

So I decided to approach M&S. I chose them because they're a global company and that means more children and families would benefit. They have a great reputation for quality and are a respected company who started out in Leeds which is my home town. I thought if they were able to order them by the thousand then surely they would be priced lower.

I wrote to their customer services team, and they promised to pass my email onto their buyers. They came back to me and said that they were interested in my proposal and were hopeful they could help.

Consumer power

We've been in touch since then, and they have been sending samples and trial suits for Caleb to try. My daughter-in-law Zoe has been able to give very positive feedback and has made suggestions as to how the clothing could be tweaked to suit older children. They also got in touch with Scope for advice, and to find more people that might be interested. Scope arranged for parents from their online community to trial some sample sizes with their children and send in their feedback too, which has all helped to shape the product.

The range is more than I ever hoped for! Initially I just asked for popper vests for older children. M&S have gone above and beyond that to make more items such as sleeping suits, long and short sleeve items, all-in-ones, and all with easy accessibility for nappy changing, tube feeding etc. The clothing is great quality and affordable. I am absolutely certain you will love them!

Four suits

A welcome idea

I have to admit that a month or two ago I had a little wobble and thought, “what if other families didn’t feel the need for these clothes?” I asked M&S if I could tell people on my Facebook page about what was happening and they said yes.

In a few days I had over 30,000 responses! Friend requests from strangers, messages from around the world: India, Spain, Portugal, New Zealand, Australia, USA, Indonesia, and Ireland. All wonderful messages of encouragement and that made me realise I had done the right thing, and that thousands of children and their carers could benefit.

We can make a difference!

I also had people talking to me about ideas of their own, and it convinced me that we should be pushing them to other high street retailers and businesses. After all if we don’t let them know what’s needed, then how are they going to help?

Anyone who got in touch with me on Facebook, or anyone who has ideas of their own, my advice is just go for it, what have you got to lose? They can only say no!

We're hopeful that with much more affordable clothing for Caleb it will be a weight off his mum and dad’s mind, and they will be able to continue with the physiotherapy he so needs. I know lots of families will have their own individual expenses to accommodate their children’s needs. So this should also help them.

A quality product

I can see now why it's taken a while to produce the garments, the attention to detail and the quality of the clothing is what M&S do best. The full range has just been released online, and they've already proved very popular!

So thank you so much M&S for making this happen.

What do you think? Are there any products that you think high street retailers should stock? Are they missing a trick by ignoring your needs? 

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Replies

  • NoraRNoraR Posts: 12Member Courageous
    Hi Rita, I'm a member of the facebook group you set up about this great opportunity and loads of people have joined. I see a lot of parents and carers have commented on additional things they would like brands like M&S to do to support disabled members of their families. What are the top 3 requests you seen coming in from families?
    Many Thanks,
    Nora
  • RitaRothwellRitaRothwell Posts: 17Member Connected
    edited February 2016
    Hi Nora. I think the top ones are people wanting larger sizes for older children.
    More of the garments to have poppers in the upper body area for peg tube feeding,
    Sleepsuits to be styled on the ones for younger children i.e. with poppers all the way up the legs and front, and to have feet in them.
    Also to have some t.shirt looking tops with poppers in the nappy area, but also poppers across the middle which are covered with a flap but still look like a t.shirt.
  • VickySVickyS Posts: 133Member Listener
    Hi Rita,
    I think this is an amazing achievement, so well done!
    I don't have any ideas for products however i'd love to know what other products you personally think high street shops should start selling?
    Thanks,
    Vicky xx
  • RitaRothwellRitaRothwell Posts: 17Member Connected
    Wow Vicky that's a very big question. It will take some thinking about but I will do just that and also have a word with my daughter in law and get back to you.
  • LauraRutherfordLauraRutherford Posts: 16Member Courageous
    Hi Rita!
    No questions, just a big well done from me.

    Obviously, I'm hoping to encourage supermarkets to sell larger nappies with my petition (https://www.change.org/p/tesco-asda-morrisons-sainsburys-lidl-aldi-ocado-waitrose-supermarkets-to-sell-or-make-larger-nappies-for-children-with-additional-support-needs)

    I think an online disabled store that had lots of products categorised for disabled people would be awesome - toys, equipment, clothes etc. All at a reasonable price and easy to locate. A disabled Amazon if you will! Someone could make a small fortune if they made products at a decent price!

    The other thing I would really like to see is more Changing Places for disabled people, which is something I would like to be involved in campaigning for.

    All the best,
    Laura xxx
  • simonsablesimonsable Posts: 76Member Connected
    Have anyone tried writing to where the supermarkets getting get those products and see if they would give you the products for the wholesale price?
  • lisalouise999lisalouise999 Posts: 17Member Listener
    edited February 2016
    Hi there. I'm glad that things are being made for older children, but what about adults? I have sensory problems, I can't deal with seams, lace or anything too binding. Trying to get actually seamless underwear for adults is almost impossible or the price is extortionate. Plus if you do manage to find any then it is made of weird almost plastic material or is shapewear which is very tight and binding. I buy the biggest sizes of children's underwear mostly because their seams are softer but as I gain weight (I've been very underweight due to health condition) the biggest sizes are getting too tight. I've been left in tears by this problem so many times!
  • Hi our son, who is a bit of a chunky monkey due to his disabilities require trousers and joggers which fit better underneath - especially when he is in his wheelchair without causing discomfort and costing a fortune to buy in large sizes then pay to get altered. Our son is 11 years old now and has a 38/40 waist. I have to buy mens short length trousers from ebay second hand and then pay again to get them altered to fit. I have contact many, and I mean many dressmakers & alteration services in our area but none will make several pairs of casual trousers, school trousers or smart trousers, in fact any trousers for less than £45 a pair!!!!! can you recommend a product or service in the Birmingham Solihull area pretty please as we are desperate
  • foxukfoxuk Posts: 93Member Courageous
    It seems to be that as soon as the word 'Disability' is added to a product or service there is a doubling or more of the price. Charities are not blameless in this as was seen with the recent exposure of one of them for selling an energy product branded with their name at more than their 'beneficial class' could have paid for a non-'discounted' rate. The alarms to give 'peace of mind' to disabled people when they fall are sold with 'fear tactics' that would make even the most hardened double glazing salesman cringe. Living in the same house Dad had a doorbell hung around his neck 24/7 set to a different sound than the door at a total cost of less than a third of a monthly rental of the local SS scheme. At 61 I wear jog pants which allow for my leg braces and don't interfere with movement, they are also very cheap. The only problem being the attitudes of some locals to what is refered to as 'council house' clothing (I wouldn't want to associate with such bigots anyway... but.) We have to change the attitude that we are 'cash-cows' too vulnerable to complain and too stupid to know the difference.
  • David ReillyDavid Reilly Posts: 2Member
    In america you can go into a supermaket and but proper nappies of any size. Why is it not like that here?
  • David ReillyDavid Reilly Posts: 2Member
    Rita, do you propose making clothes for adults as well as children? Be great if M&S stocked aduld sizes too!
  • RitaRothwellRitaRothwell Posts: 17Member Connected
    Ok Firstly to answer Vicky. Of course in an ideal world I would like to see every item a disabled person, from newborn to adult, have everything they need in one place at a reasonable cost. Much like Laura's comments on here. She describes it as a "Disabled Amazon if you will" and that would be terrific. All the people on my M&S and Me Group speak about the need for specialist clothing, trousers with elastic waist, without zips or buttons. Trousers which will fit over splints and shoes which work well with splints. And of course bigger nappies! I do hope someone will realise the need for all of these things to be available at a fair price and the one thing I believe we should be fighting for is sensory toys to be affordable. Putting sensory, special needs, or disabled in front of any item for sale seems to have it's true value quadrupled.
  • RitaRothwellRitaRothwell Posts: 17Member Connected
    To answer your question Simonsable. I have never written to ask a supplier for any thing at a wholesale price but if some entrepreneur did, they would probably be able to have a very successful business, providing the selling price was right.
  • RitaRothwellRitaRothwell Posts: 17Member Connected
    Hi Lisalouise999. I sympathise. The one very important thing to come out of my Group members page is that they want items which are suitable for adults and I know the items you speak about are one of those things. I also know Scope are collating feedback about requirements for disabled people and if you let them know I'm sure they will give the feedback to the relevant people.
  • RitaRothwellRitaRothwell Posts: 17Member Connected
    Hi Pauline. I wish I could recommend someone for you. Maybe this is something that stores would consider stocking, once they realise just how many people out there have such individual needs. Try putting your request to them, you can't be the only one that needs these items.
  • RitaRothwellRitaRothwell Posts: 17Member Connected
    edited February 2016
    Hello foxuk. I agree with you totally. That's why I felt the need to try do something about it with the clothing. The words disability, learnings difficulties, special needs is like a magnet to increase prices. Cash cows is a very good description, and so is too vulnerable to complain and too accepting. We must make people/companies realise we just want a little respect and to be treat fairly.
  • foxukfoxuk Posts: 93Member Courageous
    One thing that would save Disabled People and Carers a lot of time trouble and money would be for a Charity to arrange free membership of a Grocery Delivery company's subscription system (at present pay for the year and no charge for delivery). If one did it they would all be forced to jump on the bandwagon as so many of us use the delivery services. This would be a direct help for people, be good for charity membership and be a propaganda win for the stores involved. (Free Amazon Prime would be a winner as well).
  • PussywillowPussywillow Posts: 2Member
    Hi I've just joined. I would like to say, I have a disabled son of 37 he is so tiny with a waist of around 13". Pants are a living nightmare, nobody does small men's pants. Children's are too short in the leg, but the waist is perfect around age 10/11 dignity isn't covered however as obviously children's pants are not equipped to house young men, and this proves very uncomfortable indeedy.. I have had to buy boxers a have them velcrod down each side but this is very costly and does not last too long with the Velcro and again isn't comfortable when sitting in a moulded wheelchair seat for long periods. Too costly to purchase through disability sites, and not good choices either, normally the white only lots of people see his pants , carers and all, so something a bit younger than an old man pant would be great.. He likes to be with the trend. Please can you help someone to make small men's pants.. Yours desperate. Pussywillows.
  • LisaBeckLisaBeck Posts: 1Member
    Well done, Nora and M&S! I would also like to see older child and adult bibs -- the triangular terry kerchief ones and the slightly longer bib-shaped terry ones, both with poppers, work the best for heavy dribblers. My son, now 16, has been wearing these for years and will probably do so always. But it costs me about £200/year as I have to replace about 10 worn ones each year and also have to lay in a supply for him to use at school
    I also like the idea of a waiver from/discount on grocery delivery fees. This would be a great community service for the stores to offer although can see how it would benefit the elderly as much as our community so it could get quite big!
  • RitaRothwellRitaRothwell Posts: 17Member Connected
    Hi David. That's just it with the supermarkets. They only stock nappies to suit up to around 3 ish when most children no longer need them Our children need them for longer so they should be readily available for these children too. Also if it was up to me I would want to have clothes to suit everyone with a disability right up to adulthood. Unfortunately it isn't up to me, but I have been passing comments on about adults requesting items.
  • RitaRothwellRitaRothwell Posts: 17Member Connected
    Hi again foxuk. I think your grocery delivery idea is excellent. As you say if a charity could arrange that it would be a very popular venture I imagine. Go for it. Write to a big charity (maybe Scope) and ask them to look into it, try to get lots of signatures to show the interest.
  • RitaRothwellRitaRothwell Posts: 17Member Connected
    Hi PussyWillow. Your post is very much like a lot of posts I have received on my M&S and Me. Group. The amount of requests for differently fitting trousers with differing fastenings is tremendous. You all should start a Group of your own and then try to get someone to make them for you at a reasonable price. I bet there would be lots of willing seamstress' out there who would be happy to help, but you would I think have to have a few of you get together before this would work.
  • RitaRothwellRitaRothwell Posts: 17Member Connected
    Hi LisaBeck The older child/adult bibs must be something that could be supplied by major stores like M&S I would have thought. I can't imagine they are very difficult to produce. Hoping that they will branch out in the future and supply these. Maybe an email or letter to them would help. You should give it a go. And yes you're right the supermarket idea is a good one but may have to include the elderly as well. Which is not a bad thing.
  • Blue FrogBlue Frog Posts: 373Member Pioneering
    We have followed Rita's story on mumsnet and are really pleased about the vests being available, just as my little girl has started outgrowing 2-3 year ones. Thanks so much!!

    One thing I have been thinking about, is how I have spent hours searching the Internet to find things we need. There are companies out there that do make and sell things, but it takes ages to find them.

    As an example, I tracked down somewhere that makes gorgeous gro bag style sleeping bags up to age 12. I told some friends about it, and they were pleased to know as their children also need them. Could we have a section on this board to share great finds like this please? would save us all lots of time and may also encourage companies to sell more items.

    Oh and the thing we would love to see next is a swimming costume that is easy to put on and take off :D
  • RitaRothwellRitaRothwell Posts: 17Member Connected
    Hi Blue Frog Thank you for your comments. Glad you can benefit from the new clothing. I understand what you are saying about searching for things and spending hours. It would be a good idea to have a section on here for people to add information but if that doesn't happen why not create a Group where you can add members as I did with my M&S and Me. Group. I gained 4,000 in around 1 month. You would have to trawl the internet to find other groups whose members may be interested in telling you of their experiences but either way you could get lots of feedback from other people in a similar situation to yours. You never know someone may have already found that elusive swimsuit you so want.
  • Madmomz7Madmomz7 Posts: 6Member Listener
    Seam free cotton clothing and socks would be great in child and adult sizes, I have a adult son and a younger one who both have sensory issues and clothing are a big part of the problem, they can't deal with seems, labels, waist adjusters,even some materials like jeans and cargo trousers can be a big struggle and sometimes only manageable for very short periods of time. My eldest don't wear socks at all has I can't find ones suitable, I won't pay silly money for something manufacturers can produce cheaper.
  • RitaRothwellRitaRothwell Posts: 17Member Connected
    Good for you Madmomz7 You shouldn't have to pay silly money for those items. Lots of people want seam free clothing and socks. Get together with others of the same mind and contact a high street store and let them know just what is required. They can't help if they don't know.
  • JenniferUJenniferU Posts: 124Member Courageous
    Hi Blue Frog - it would be great if everyone could add any finds to the community. A good place to do it is our tips section: https://community.scope.org.uk/tips
  • RitaRothwellRitaRothwell Posts: 17Member Connected
    Good idea Jen. Hope people will use your tips section.
  • CME_TherapistCME_Therapist Posts: 9Member Listener
    edited April 2016
    Families of children I work with got their children's products from this great organisation at affordable prices, here below their link: http://www.fledglings.org.uk
  • RitaRothwellRitaRothwell Posts: 17Member Connected
    Thank you for letting the members of Scope Community, who are not already aware, know about Fledglings.
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