Never mind the spring collection, M&S shoppers are flocking to the refund desk

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The Independent Online

The shoppers of south Manchester had not quite grasped the general commercial theory that great numbers of carrier bags were supposed to be heading out to the car park from M&S yesterday, full of the new 2002 spring womenswear collection.

At the Handforth Dean store, M&S's biggest earner outside London, most of the bags were heading inside, festooned with the red livery of the chain's Magic & Sparkle Christmas campaign, which was a dead giveaway for their destination, the refund desk.

There were other distractions, such as half-price elasticated cords and £19 woollen sweaters in the New Year sale which, to the untutored eye, would not have looked out of place in any spring range.

But the daringly early spring collection was clearly working for Dorrie Saunders, 66. Four years ago, Mrs Saunders was so disillusioned with Marks she sold her shares, but the denim skirts and "beautiful sweaters" of the new range gladdened her heart. "There's real style here They seem to have found their way again."

This is the first collection for M&S by its £400,000-a-year creative director, Yasmin Yusuf, 42 former saviour of the Warehouse fashion chain. It impressed Julie Collins, 42. With her denim skirt and "standard trousers", she said: "They're suddenly a bit more modern."

Jennie Lewis, a 31-year-old logistics business manager, liked the good old Marks dependability. "It's traditional, you can bring it back and I've got a charge card – it's foolproof," she said, clutching a £35 denim jacket and moving on to a "nice, classic white shirt" at the adjacent rack.

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