Chain accused of fleecing parents with safe uniform

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The Independent Online

On the day it opened its redesigned ultra-modern store in Kensington, west London, Marks & Spencer was yesterday accused of exploiting parents' fears by launching a range of "safety" school uniforms.

On the day it opened its redesigned ultra-modern store in Kensington, west London, Marks & Spencer was yesterday accused of exploiting parents' fears by launching a range of "safety" school uniforms.

The clothes are fire-resistant, anti-bacterial and choke-proof and while the company said it was responding to parents' safety concerns, critics have complained it is a cynical attempt by the company to strengthen its hold on the school uniform market by exploiting such fears.

The range, which will be marketed as "the safest in the world" features clothes made with flame-retardant material and Chitopoly, a natural anti-bacterial fabric which may help children suffering from eczema and other dermatological problems by preventing the growth of bacteria in clothes.

But the trousers made from Chitopoly will cost £6 more than the basic non-iron Teflon trousers and a shirt is twice as much as a normal shirt, which sells for between £8 an £16 for a pack of two. The company said it had also taken steps to ensure that zips, badges and bows were securely attached to reduce the danger of choking.

However, most children's clothes are already subject to stringent safety tests and are subjected to flame and durability tests.

Judith Gillespie, the development manager at the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said M&S was generating unnecessary fears among parents.

She said: "If M&S wanted to address a real problem, as opposed to creating a perceived one, then it might do well to create fashionable clothes with fluorescent strips because the biggest threat to children is them being run over. That would be a useful service but the one it is proposing isn't."

But the clothes were welcomed by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).

An M&S spokesman said: "We were aware of parents' safety concerns over schoolwear. After an intensive tesing programme we have launched this range which we believe to be the safest in the world."

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