Huge cheers rang out in Gloucester city centre as the new Marks & Spencer opened in Eastgate Street yesterday.
The air was thick with anticipation as a large crowd of eager customers gathered to watch the ribbon cut at 10am.
They flocked inside and were greeted by glasses of champagne and orange juice to toast the eagerly awaited occasion.
Among them was Audrey Townsend, of Fullers Court in Westgate Street, who had been queuing since 8.30am.
The 92-year-old has shopped at M&S in Gloucester for 74 years, since she was 18, and was presented with a bouquet of flowers to thank her for her loyalty.
She said: “I’m always made welcome here and everyone is always so helpful and lovely.
“I have hardly ever gone anywhere else and am really looking forward to shopping in the new store.”
Manager Laura Pratt was flanked by almost all of her 120 staff as she cut the ribbon.
The new 35,000 sq ft store brings together the previous two Gloucester branches under one roof.
The company revealed the investment in January 2010 and Laura said: “Thank you all for being so patient and for being such loyal customers.
“I hope you all enjoy the new store.”
Asked how she felt about the opening she said: “I’m overwhelmed.
“People are just desperate to get in there.”
Also among the crowd was Gloucester MP Richard Graham and several city councillors including leader Paul James.
Mayor, councillor David Brown, said: “You’ve heard of the Olympic tingle, well I think we have got the Gloucester tingle here today.
“There is so much support from the people of Gloucester for this.”
A buzz of excitement spread through the two floors as people tripped over themselves to discover the products on offer.
Within minutes the food hall was packed with people snapping up products including fresh bread and pastries from the in-store bakery.
Joan Wilson was one of the first customers through the tills.
The 81-year-old, from Tredworth, bought some fishcakes and sweets. She said: “I’m so excited it’s finally opened as we always shop here.”
Female customers were keen to try out the Style Online service which has samples of brands not available in store and touchscreens to create virtual outfits.
Downstairs, the 80-seater cafe was crammed and people explored the rainbow arrays of ties and socks in menswear as well as the children’s and lingerie departments.
Amy Knight, 31, from Tredworth said: “It’s lush. The layout is a lot better than the other ones.”
Audrey Jefferies, from Stroud, said: “It’s what Gloucester needs.
“It will make a vast difference.”
Moreen Webb, from Stroud, said: “It’s absolutely lovely.”
Gethin Evans, 33, from Hempsted, said: “It brings Gloucester forward and I will shop here more now.”
Ken Smith, 65, from Bishopstone Road, Gloucester, said: “I came down especially for the opening and I’m not disappointed. It’s very nice.”
Liz Brookes, 48, from Longlevens, said: “I’m not sure it will help Gloucester but it’s nice to have everything under one roof.
“I’d love to see a Next in one of the old stores.”
City chiefs are hoping the new store will revive trade in the area which suffered a drop in footfall after Woolworths left the site in 2009.
A spokesman for the Eastgate shopping centre said it was in talks with several companies about taking over the now empty former Southgate Street-fronting M&S unit and an announcement was expected “within weeks”.
There were tears the previous evening when M&S staff said goodbye to the old stores in Southgate Street and Northgate Street.
Shelagh Barnard has worked for M&S in Gloucester for 25 years.
She said: “It was quite emotional.
“We didn’t stop crying yesterday because a lot has happened to us at the other store over the years.
“But it’s lovely to open the new store as everyone has worked so hard on it.”
Pictured: Manager Laura Pratt cuts the ribbon to open the new Marks & Spencer on Eastgate Street, Gloucester.