Kids Planet targets growth with new settings

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Childcare provider Kids Planet plans to open ten settings over the next nine months, increasing its portfolio of operations to 62.

Despite the impact of the pandemic, chief executive of the nursery group Clare Roberts told a LaingBuisson webinar its growth plans remained and the business aimed to raise more investment in the next 18 months with the target to double in size in the next two to three years.

Part of its growth strategy, which has operations in the North West and Midlands, will be to move further south.

During the Early Education and Childcare webinar, Fatima Essoufi, head of M&A at La Maison Bleue, which has 400 nurseries across Europe, said its operations at the back end of last year in France and Luxembourg had been returning to pre-Covid levels.

She predicted provision in the UK would bounce back this year but possibly with different demands from parents requesting more flexibility. Essoufi told attendees parents were inclined to register closer to home rather than near the office, with customers wanting different patterns of bookings.

Arun Kanwar, partner at Cairneagle, who authored LaingBuisson’s Childcare report, provided the audience with an update of the UK market during the pandemic and said occupancy had been lagging but there was variance across the country.

‘Generally, nurseries in residential areas with professionals have fared better,’ he said. ‘Areas where the economy is reliant on traditional retail and hospitality have been hit the hardest. Generally, but not universally, the South East and London have been better off.’

He remained confident there was appetite for M&A deals in the sector.

This was echoed by Essoufi, who told the audience: ‘In the UK we believe there is huge potential to increase the size of our business.’

Roberts was equally buoyant about the future of the nurseries market. ‘What lockdown has shown a lot of people is that it’s impossible to work at home with young children…’ she said. ‘Anyone who has children of nursery age, you cannot do your job and care for your children at the same time.’

An updated version of the Childcare report is due to be published soon.