A NEW M&S store has opened at a former Debenhams in south Essex today after months of anticipation.

Hundreds of people were queueing up as the store officially opened at 10am in the Lakeside Shopping Centre this morning.

They were joined by store manager, Dior Hudson, staff, and guests of honour Percy Pig and Colin the Caterpillar to cut the ribbon.

Echo: Opening - M&SOpening - M&S (Image: M&S)

The show-stopping new 97,000 sq ft store offers local shoppers a fresh market-style Foodhall, stylish and spacious new clothing, home and beauty departments, and a new 140-seat M&S Café.      

Store manager Dior Hudson, who has worked at M&S for ten years, said: “We are thrilled to officially open our brand-new store today in Lakeside shopping centre.

“The last few weeks have been so exciting for us all as we have seen the store take shape, and I’d like to thank everyone in the team for all their hard work to make sure everything is ready for our customers today.”

Echo: Opening - M&SOpening - M&S (Image: M&S)

"The store is an exciting investment in the future of M&S in Thurrock, and I can’t wait for our customers to explore all the new features that the store has to offer.

“Along with our existing Lakeside team of over 290 colleagues, we are really pleased to introduce over 90 new recruits to M&S Lakeside who can’t wait to meet everyone.

“With an amazing new, fresh market feel Foodhall and a clothing, home and beauty department which is the perfect place to shop your M&S favourites, we really do have the best of M&S here for everyone to enjoy.”

Echo: Opening - M&SOpening - M&S (Image: M&S)

The new store has also created more than 90 jobs.

As a surprise to the “dedicated” queuing customers, Percy Pig and Colin the Caterpillar were on-hand to welcome shoppers to the new store as the team handed out 200 golden tickets to the first customers through the door.

Every golden ticket holder was guaranteed a win – whether it was a free bag of Percy Pigs or freshly baked cookies from the new M&S bakery, and to mark the occasion one lucky customer won a £200 M&S voucher.