Marks & Spencer is testing prominent, separately-branded financial services areas in 40 of its largest stores.
Two of the chain’s 40 flagship outlets, in Warrington and Chester, have opened prototypes which allow customers to consult financial services assistants, open a M&S chargecard account and to access the M&S financial services Website instore.
A spokesman says a decision whether to extend the trial to more outlets in the 280-strong chain will be made in the next two to three months.
The new areas will be located in a prominent part of the store, rather than near customer services desks at the rear, as was the case in the past.
They will include a consultation room where customers can talk privately to an assistant. Personal stereos and Nintendo Gameboys will be provided to keep children amused.
The move follows plans to boost the uptake of M&S financial services products, which include unit trusts, personal loans, ISAs and pension plans, as clothing sales continue to fall.
M&S this month reported a 43 per cent fall in half-year pre-tax profits to &£192.8m on sales down three per cent to &£3.7bn.
Over the same period, profits of the stores’ financial services division increased by three per cent to &£46.1m.