SCORES of excited shoppers queued to be the first ones through the door of the first Marks & Spencer store in Havant borough.
Simply Food opened in Wellington Retail Park, Waterlooville, yesterday with 60 people there to watch customer assistant Tom Weatherill cut the ribbon.
It is hoped that the brand will help revitalise Waterlooville which has seen a decline over the past decade.
Sixty jobs have been created by the opening of the shop in the former JJB Sport unit which had been empty for some time.
At the moment M&S customers travel to Portsmouth or Chichester to shop.
As well as M&S, Sainsbury’s is also opening a supermarket in Hambledon Road.
Both companies are hoping to capitalise on the potential new customers from the West of Waterlooville development where thousands of new homes are being built.
The Simply Food shop will have an order and collect service even on non-food items.
Janet Johnson, the secretary of Waterlooville Business Association, said: ‘Some people have said it should have been in the town centre but the way we look at it is, M&S do their homework. They are not going to come to a town that they don’t think is growing.
‘Now they’re in we’re hoping it will bring others. And now the retail park is full they will have to come into the town centre.’
Speaking from the 8,400sq ft store, customer Rob Wainwright, a Waterlooville resident, said: ‘It’s great to see the ongoing development of Waterlooville, and we welcome the new store.’
And Keith Hodges, also from Waterlooville, said he was impressed with the size of the store.
He added: ‘It saves us driving to Chichester for our food shop.’
The shop will have an in-store bakery and a 50-seat cafe, as well as Shop Your Way and Food to Order services.
A selection of fresh flowers and greetings cards are available.
Store manager Jamie Ayers said: ‘It’s great to finally welcome customers into the new store and show them what we have been working on for the past few months.
‘The feedback we have received from customers today has been fantastic, particularly on the range of products available and the look and feel of the new store.
‘We believe the new store brings the best in quality and fresh food to shoppers in Waterlooville.
‘We look forward to welcoming customers into the store over the weeks and months to come.’
It is open from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Saturday, and from 10am to 4pm on Sundays.