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