Most Early Learning Centres set for closure

Most Early Learning Centres set for closure

Most Early Learning Centre stores are to close in the next three years as part of plans to slim down Mothercare plc in the UK. Some 59 ELC shops have already closed in the past year, and a further 75 stores will close by 2015, leaving just 27 stores in operation.

ELC, which sells educational toys and books, was bought by Mothercare in 2007 from Chelsea Stores, which was owned by Tim Waterstone. Waterstone had attempted to make the chain more upmarket, increasing the range of books on offer.

Publishers commented that ELC’s book range had become particularly narrow in the past couple of years. One publisher, who declined to be named, said: “ELC’s range was very focused on one or two big preschool brands; we would certainly have liked to have seen a broader range of books on offer.”

However, Les Phipps, group sales director at Hachette Children’s Books, commented: “The closure or cutback of any outlet that sells children’s books is always sad, but particularly so with ELC, as it is such a supporter of the pre-school market”.

Helen Randles, sales director for RHCB, agreed that the closure raised further concerns about high street retailing. “The closure of any store selling books is a concern for us all, and particularly given that this is a preschool specialist when that area is doing so well in general. The broader question must be what is going on in the high street and the issue of people’s confidence in high street shopping.”