Rita’s grandson Caleb has a rare genetic disorder, micro-deletion, cerebral palsy and epilepsy. During the last few years Rita retired, and was able to help her daughter-in-law, Zoe, with Caleb’s care where possible. “Caleb is PEG fed and needs constant around-the-clock care, I thought I would help Zoe out by searching for body suits for Caleb as he had just turned three. I was completely surprised when I couldn’t find anything affordable on either the high street or online.
“I started to ask around other parents of disabled children and found out they were ordering sleep suits and vests from the USA and even with the postage and packaging it was working out cheaper. I thought this was insane.”
Rita started writing to the high-street store she admired. “I explained the situation and said that thousands of other families were in the same position. Within three to four days M&S had got back to me to say they would be happy to develop something together. I created a Facebook page called ‘M&S and Me.’ The power of social media really helped, it was like a pyramid effect with everyone sharing the posts with everyone else.
“Caleb was selected as a trial to test the range of vests, body and sleep suits. Scope came on board with older children who volunteered to test the different age ranges from three to eight years old. The whole process was very smooth and positive, M&S kept me up to date so that I could then feed back to the ever growing Facebook community with size, style, colour options, and availability date.”
The full range is now available on the Marks and Spencer website where the attention to detail from both Rita and M&S is apparent.
“I still have people joining the Facebook group, I love the pictures parents send to me of their children in their sleep suits. One parent even sent me a picture of their receipt as previously they had been paying £90 for a few items and the total cost of their purchase through M&S was only a quarter of the previous cost. I think this is just the beginning and I would hope that other high-street stores look to Marks and Spencer and see how they have filled a niche in the market. Also there are lots of parents out there who still require more work to be done, bigger sizes, easier access and for popper vests to be more discreet for older wearers. At the moment I am supporting Laura Rutherford, a mother of a disabled child’s campaign for supermarkets to stock bigger nappies for disabled children.”