Step into a high street fashion store, and you’re likely to find ranges catering for a variety of different body shapes - from petite to curvy.

But if you happen to be one of the 750,000+ women who fall pregnant in the UK each year, then picking out a dress for a wedding or special occasion will be somewhat more challenging

Because when we contacted 6 of the UK’s top fashion retailers we discovered that:

  • 4 of them did not stock ANY maternity clothes in store

  • The other 2 had a total of  just 15 stores (combined), in 20 of the UK’s largest cities, which stocked maternity clothes suitable for a special occasion

  • 3 of those 15 stores had just ONE dress in stock

 

Why We Conducted The Study

There’s no shortage of maternity fashion available online. Google ‘maternity clothes’ and you’ll get hundreds of retailers competing for your business.

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And there are a ton of beautiful dresses specially tailored to show off your bump.

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So what’s the problem?

Well, when you’re not pregnant, you’ll have a pretty good idea of your size, and online shopping will be a breeze. But when you are pregnant, it goes without saying that your body shape is going to change.

Which means that maternity is a time when you’ll want to be trying clothes on - particularly if you have an event coming up that you want to look extra special for. 

And as one of team Lindsay recently discovered, finding a store on the high street that stocks maternity fashion is not easy:

“I was invited to attend a wedding in May this year. At the time I was a little over 5 months pregnant and when I tried a few outfits from my wardrobe, I realised that I would definitely need a new dress for the day.

I live in the Scottish Highlands, and the closest town to me is Inverness. I spent a frustrating day trying to find a dress without any luck - there was only one store that had any maternity clothes, and nothing was suitable for a wedding. A trip to Glasgow a few days later was equally uninspiring, and in the end I had to borrow a dress from a friend.”

Browse through some pregnancy forums and you’ll discover that this is a common problem for mums to be.

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So we decided to do some investigating.

 

What We Discovered

We chose to look at 6 major high street retailers, all of which stock maternity fashion online.

New Look and Topshop were the only 2 retailers who stocked maternity wear in any of their stores. The other retailers were exclusively online.

But ‘stocking’ maternity wear could mean a couple of baggy t-shirts, or a pair of oversize pink pyjamas. 

So to dig a little deeper, we collected contact details for New Look and Topshop stores in 20 UK cities from the Find Open database. 

In total we contacted 74 New Look stores and 37 Topshop stores.

We called the stores and asked if they: 

  1. Stock maternity wear (any)

  2. Stock maternity dresses suitable for a special occasion

Here is what we discovered:

  • New Look stocked maternity wear in 22 of the stores we contacted (30%), while Top Shop stocked maternity wear in 24 (65%).

  • 8 New Look stores had dresses suitable for special occasions, while the rest stocked casual wear only.

  • 7 Topshop stores had dresses suitable for special occasions, while the rest stocked casual wear only.

We should however point out that 2 of the Topshop stores, and one New Look store had only one dress in stock, while most other stores commented that they had ‘2 or 3 dresses’ available.  

Indeed, the only store who claimed to have a good selection of dresses in stock was New Look in Coventry.

 

A Common Problem For Mums To Be 

We had already done some Googling before conducting our research, but we also decided to ask for some fresh opinions from mums to be. 

And we also wanted to find out which stores (if any) were recommended for maternity fashion. 

Here are a some of the responses from a Reddit thread we created on the topic:

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You can read the rest of the responses here.

While the sample size is small, there did appear to be a consensus forming around H&M stocking best selection of maternity clothing in store. Although there were also several complaints about their sizing.

Note: We did not include H&M in our own study as they don’t currently provide contact details for individual stores. We did reach out to them for comment and statistics on the number of their stores which which stock maternity wear, but have yet to receive a response.

In terms of online shopping, ASOS was the most recommended site for maternity fashion, however, the same caveat applies to the sample size.

 

Other High Street Fashion Retailers

Our research focused on high street retailers who continue to sell maternity fashion online. But some high street retailers appear to have completely discontinued their maternity lines - both instore and online.

One such retailer is Primark.

At the time of publication they have just one maternity specific item available on their website.

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For a retailer which stocks such a wide range of clothing, we found this surprising.

Indeed, it would appear this is a recent move, as many forum discussions suggest they previously had a good selection of maternity wear.

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As far as we could tell, other high street retailers which no longer stock any maternity lines include: River Island, Miss Selfridge, Monsoon, Forever 21, and Zara.

Zara is particularly interesting, as back in 2015, they launched a full range of maternity fashion.

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However, this seems to have been quietly discontinued.

 

Why Is Maternity Fashion Being Phased Out On The High Street? 

Ultimately we would guess that it comes down to a question of demand. High street retailers will always prioritise floor space for their most popular lines.

However, with hundreds of thousands of pregnant mums in the UK, we do believe that the larger, flagship stores should find room for at least a small range. 

We reached out to all of the retailers featured in our study for comment. At the time of publication the only retailer to respond was Marks & Spencers, who stated that: 

“our maternity range is online only, as we have found that is how our customers prefer to shop the range” 

We can’t help but feel their findings may be wrong. 

Cities In Study: Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow, Sheffield, Bradford, Manchester, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Bristol, Cardiff, Belfast, Leicester, Wakefield, Coventry, Nottingham, Newcastle, Sunderland, Brighton & Hove, Kingston Upon Hull, Plymouth

New Look stores stocking maternity wear for special occasions: Glasgow (Fort), Manchester (Fort), Edinburgh (Craigleith), Liverpool (Paradise Street), Cardiff (Talbot Green), Coventry (Lower Precinct), Nottingham (Listergate), Newcastle (Team Valley Trading Estate)

Topshop stores stocking maternity wear for special occasions: Birmingham (New Bull Ring Centre), Leeds (Briggate), Liverpool (Church Street), Bristol (Brigstow Street), Belfast (Victoria Square), Leicester (Highcross), Nottingham (Victoria Centre)