Hundreds turn out for opening day of new Marks and Spencer in Washington's Galleries Retail Park

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‘The new store is fabulous and everyone is going to love it. It’s a great asset for Washington.’

Hundreds of people were queuing from early this morning (May 30) as the new Marks & Spencer store in Washington opened its doors for the first time to customers.

The previous simply food store, also located in Washington, closed its doors yesterday evening (May 29).

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Percy Pig, Colin the Caterpillar, store manager Rob Slone, first customer Christina Herbert and grandson Tom Edwards.Percy Pig, Colin the Caterpillar, store manager Rob Slone, first customer Christina Herbert and grandson Tom Edwards.
Percy Pig, Colin the Caterpillar, store manager Rob Slone, first customer Christina Herbert and grandson Tom Edwards.

The new store, which is located at The Galleries Retail Park, covers 43,000 square foot, including a food court double the size of the old store which is located on the ground floor along with the women’s clothing section.

On the second floor customers can find a footwear section, beauty products, menswear section, as well as children’s clothing.

Greeting customers as they eagerly made their way into the store was new manager, Rob Slone.

Rob has worked for M&S for 20 years. He was previously manager of the Silverlink store in Wallsend but said the opportunity to come and work at the new Washington shop was “too good to turn down”.

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He added: “I’ve been working on this project for about six months and so this is a really great day.

“We’ve been building a team of 150 people and so I’m just excited that we have finally opened the doors to customers and can show them this brilliant new store that we have got for them.

“I’ve been based on site here for the last 10 days and I’ve been getting stopped every time I’ve been going to my car by customers here in Washington who are so excited about this new store opening.”

Opening day for the new M & S store at Washington Galleries.Opening day for the new M & S store at Washington Galleries.
Opening day for the new M & S store at Washington Galleries.

Performing the official ribbon cutting ceremony was Christina Herbert, from Rickleton in Washington.

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She was invited, along with her grandson Tom Edwards, to officially unveil the store after her recently deceased mother, Edith Leithes, was the first customer into the original food only store in Washington, 13 years ago.

In keeping with the now family tradition, after cutting the ribbon, Christina, 72, was also invited to be the first customer into the new store.

She said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be here today and it was a real honour and privilege to be invited to cut the ribbon.

“My mum was the first customer in the simply food store and talked about it for the rest of her life.

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“She would have been delighted to know that I have now followed in her footsteps.

“The new store is fabulous and everyone is going to love it. It’s a great asset for Washington.”

It’s a sentiment shared by fellow shopper Dee Robson, 35, from Harraton.

Dee Robson.Dee Robson.
Dee Robson.

She said: “This is much bigger and better than the old store. It’s going to be a big asset for Washington, bringing in more business and jobs.

“Having an M&S in the town will also raise its reputation.”

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Fellow Washington resident Angela Wood, 65, added: “There’s no comparison with the old shop. This is much bigger and better and I’m really impressed with what I’ve seen.

“It’s brilliant for Washington. I used to travel to Newcastle to go to M&S, but now I can just come here.”

The opening of the new Washington store has coincided with the closure of the company’s city centre branch on Saturday May 25.

It was a decision which disappointed many city residents.

Commenting on the closure of the old store and the opening of the new Washington branch, an M&S spokesperson said: “We know it was disappointing for Sunderland city centre shoppers, but shopping habits are changing and this new store will offer a brilliant shopping experience in a great shopping environment.

“This new store has free parking and great accessibility.”

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Angela Wood and Alison Allington.Angela Wood and Alison Allington.
Angela Wood and Alison Allington.

It’s a decision shoppers Angela Wood and her friend Alison Allington agreed with.

Alison, 66, from Hetton, said: “I didn’t like the Sunderland store. Washington is still part of the Sunderland city boundaries and the new location is ideal for parking.”

Angela added: “It was the right decision. The new store is part of a retail park and so there are a whole range of shops for people to enjoy.”

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