Every parent knows this child. She is around 13, she has a mind of her own, and she will not go into children's clothes shops because she does not want to be considered a child. However, she is too small for adult clothes, so where does she go to shop? Or, more to the point, where do you take her?

She is typical of the 10- to 14-year age group - which means she is fashion conscious and difficult. Most irritating of all, her opinion about what she likes is likely to change overnight. Even if you do succeed in buying her some clothes, there is no guarantee of prolonged satisfaction.

The fickleness of this age group not only causes parents angst, it also makes retailers despair. Small wonder that the group has been neglected by the big high- street retailers.

But now BhS, not usually a retailer noted for innovation, is trying to do something about the problem. At the end of last year it launched The One and Only Clothes Co, a new collection for 10- to 14-year-olds, with its own separate departments in 110 BhS stores and two individual shops in Bristol and Cardiff.

The response has been extraordinary, says Helena Packshaw, marketing director. The company has received several hundred letters from grateful mothers thanking the store for making their shopping trips rather more fruitful. Other stores cater for the early teens, including Marks & Spencer, C & A, Hennes, Top Shop and Tammy Girl. But none of them has tackled this pounds 200m market with quite the resolve and energy of BhS's concept.

BhS appears to have got the recipe right. The in-store shops make no specific reference to the age of their customers; the feeling was that this would put them off. The clothes are exceptionally well priced, but the store has not cut corners on quality or the sort of details that young girls appreciate in their clothes.

This week, the buying team at BhS gave me a preview of the new spring collections, which will be going into the stores shortly. The collections are full of the basic clothes that young teenagers like, including leggings, sweat-tops and joggers, jeans and a full range of accessories that co-ordinate with the fashion - bags, shoes, hairbands and jewellery.

The higher priced and most fashionable pieces for girls, from a 'cowgirl'-inspired range, included fake ponyskin waistcoats for pounds 19.99 and little fringed suede jackets for pounds 24.99. Jeans were pounds 18.99. An 'urban sports' range for boys included denim shirts for pounds 11.99, printed T-shirts for pounds 6.99, and well designed baseball jackets for pounds 39.99.

Mike France, buying director for BhS childrenswear, said that the more fashionable clothes at One and Only had proved the best sellers this winter. 'We aim to have something new going into the shops every week to keep people interested,' he said. Children were becoming interested in fashion much earlier these days, he went on. 'Particularly the girls. I've got two children, aged four and six - and the six-year-old is already incredibly fashion aware.'

Mothers also confirm that children are becoming more fussy about fashion. Lucinda Goldhill, a working mother from Muswell Hill, north London, with two children within the One and Only age range, said: 'My daughters have very emphatic opinions indeed. They know exactly what they want.'

BhS, in common with other high-street clothing retailers, has long had problems selling to these fashion-following children. It tends to lose its young customers when they are around the age of 14 because, as they grow in independence, they want to break away from the big (and boring) stores they were dragged around when they were seven years old. If they buy (or are bought) clothes from BhS, the first thing they do is rip out the BhS label.

This explains why the BhS name plays a very low profile at One and Only. The design team has come up with its own advertising campaign, with photographs for the spring collection shot in Miami. Mr France says he would like the store to become 'a place where kids congregate'.

Whether One and Only can build on its promising beginnings remains to be seen. Paradoxically, if it becomes very popular, this could put off many of their original young customers who might not want to see too many of their friends wearing the same clothes.

It should also be pointed out that Storehouse, the retailing group which owns BhS, has tried to attract teenagers before. In 1986, Sir Terence Conran, who then ran Storehouse, closed down Now, a chain of stores for teenagers. Even his magic touch was defeated by the fickle teens. A couple of years on, Storehouse launched Anonymous, a chain for older teenagers, which also had a short life.

Mr France remains philosophical about the difficulties of selling clothes to young teenagers. 'I tell my team that we must never get complacent. The moment we think we've cracked it is the moment we've lost it.'

The One and Only Clothes Co is at BhS stores nationwide, plus 38-46 Broadmead, Bristol, and 50-54 Queen Street, Cardiff.

(Photographs omitted)