Marks & Spencer opened its 151,000 sq ft store at Cheshire Oaks on Wednesday morning, promising a 'new retail experience for customers'.
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The store is the second largest M&S in the country – London's Oxford Street store is bigger – and will employ 500 people. Features include free wi-fi, 'browse and order' screens and the largest home interiors department in the group's UK portfolio, at 18,000 sq ft. The womenswear department stretches to 30,000 sq ft and there are 7,000 product lines in the food hall. There are two cafes with seating for 430 people.
Plans for the store were criticised by some Cheshire residents who saw it as a threat to Chester city centre's retail appeal. Chester City Council and Cheshire County Council both opposed the plans but many of the same politicians who opposed it later backed the store after the enlarged Cheshire West & Chester Council was created and Ellesmere Port and Chester became part of the same authority. Former Communities Secretary John Denham ruled in favour of the store following an inquiry in 2009.
Steve Rowe, M&S director of retail, said today: "In line with our strategy to develop an exciting, easy to shop retail experience for our customers, our Cheshire Oaks store will encapsulate the latest & very best of M&S design and cutting-edge retail technology.
"Here at our brand new flagship store, our customers will find a fresh approach to shopping and customers service, enhanced by interactive technology that creates a truly unique consumer environment. This store represents the future of retail – a dynamic, interactive space that will redefine what it is like to shop at M&S."
Cheshire Oaks' is the greenest store M&S has built and uses carbon-absorbing hemp wall panels, rainwater harvesting and sustainable timber in the roof and first floor.
The architect was Aukett Fitzoy Robinson.
Click image to launch gallery