And thank you, God, for St Michael

Marks & Spencer might be down but it's a long way from out. That's because it's fantastic, says devotee Elizabeth Heathcote
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Oh it's so easy to kick a dog when it's down. Marks & Spencer's profits fall by half and suddenly everyone's shaking their heads and saying they knew it was coming (which of course they did because, being M&S, the company had the good manners to warn the world back in January). The City has its theories (over-centralised management, whatever that is) and the rest of us have ours, the accepted wisdom being that, like New Labour and Radio 4 before it, M&S tried to Modernise (ie appeal to young people) and in doing so lost support in its Traditional Heartland (ie knickers and grannies). In other words it got too big for its boots, sold out and deserves everything it gets.

Well, I love M&S and I'm not going to desert it in its hour of need. Here are 10 reasons why it will rise again to slay its competitors and be around years after Next, Gap and other interlopers in the white T-shirt market are but dim memories.

1. Karma

A little known aspect of M&S is its role in the treatment of anxiety and depression. It's a cosy and warm retreat from a harsh world in the way that families are meant to be but never are, the retail version of re-reading a favourite children's classic. Nothing bad ever, ever happens at Marks - you are safe here. And if poverty is what's bringing you down, you can spend thousands of pounds cheering yourself up because ...

2. Refunds

... you know you can bring it all back when you're feeling a little more stable. Other shops have jumped on this bandwagon but M&S is still at the forefront of the refunds market because of the assistants' non-judgmental manner as they cross every item off a receipt as long as your arm and hand you back hundreds of pounds. This function is also a student's best friend - if your cashpoint has stopped handing out money, buy from here on a cheque and return two hours later for cash. (Well, it worked in my day.)

3. Chairs

M&S is one of the few shops on the high street to provide somewhere to sit down. Rest your weary trots awhile without threat of being moved on by burly security staff.

4. Hangers

Free with all purchases. Obviously you won't want them (they're plastic and break) but a free gift should never be underestimated.

5. High resale value

Have you noticed the premium that second-hand clothes shops charge on M&S items? This is a mark of the High Quality which is another selling point (but so obvious it doesn't deserve a bracket of its own).

6. Good Saturday jobs

When I was a teenager, a Saturday job at Marks was the most sought-after in town for its top rates of pay and assorted benefits, the most famous being a hairdresser - now that's class. I got a job at Boots (a not-to- be-sniffed-at Saturday employer itself) and we had a reciprocal bomb-scare agreement with M&S, so that if we were evacuated from our end of the shopping centre, we could shelter in their staff areas and vice versa. The first time it happened we sloped into their perfumed cloakroom with its sweetly fragrant handcreams, bowls of potpourri, soft tissues in boxes and immaculate decor and felt like a crocodile of raggedy orphans who'd been allowed to glimpse paradise. Staff also got to take home out-of-date food.

7. Sarnies and knickers

Absolute supremacy demands no explanation.

8. Refuses to take credit cards

Stops you getting into debt you can't manage. (See also Refunds.)

9. Bra measurements

OK, so we're all supposed to know by now not just to shove a tape measure over the widest part and get our friends to squint and estimate a cup size, but too many of us still don't have the first clue of what our true bra size is. M&S can tell you. M&S knows everything.

10. Cool in summer, warm in winter

Outstanding temperature control. I've got a friend whose mother makes a special trip to M&S on hot summer days to stand in the freezer department. (See also karma.)

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