HALF a century at a high street brand was shared between Linda McKinlay and Aritsos Louca as they each celebrated 25 years at Marks and Spencers last week.
The pair both joined the store on Regent Street in 1989 when acid wash, lycra and ra-ra skirts were all the rage, but 62-year-old Linda, the ‘Suit Lady’ from Wroughton, has been a mainstay in the formal department, where not much has changed.
She said: “I just love the customers, and I love selling. I work on formalwear and we get all sorts coming in, especially wedding parties.”
Linda gets involved with every customer, often receiving wedding photos and, on one occasion, an invite.
She said: “A lot of people know me as Linda the ‘Suit Lady’, and a lot of them send me photos back from their weddings. That is wonderful because it means I see it through from start to finish.
“Sometimes people will come in and ask for me, and if I am not here they will come back another day.
“That way you know they feel confident with you and they can trust you to do a good job.
“I am extremely proud to have worked here for so long. I only started out as a Christmas temp for a bit of money for the holidays, and that was a very long time ago. What is wonderful is there are regulars who have known you for 25 years, and it is really lovely when you feel appreciated in your job and you know it is worthwhile.”
While the style of suits has not changed over quarter of a century, the way shopping is changing concerns Linda.
She said: “Internet ordering has changed things massively. Whereas now you have regular customers coming in I do not think that will happen in the future. There is not as much interaction with customers any more.
“The main thing for me is I am still happy in my job after 25 years. If you are happy in what you do that comes across to customers and colleagues. If you are not happy you are in the wrong job.”
Fearnley Martin, store manager, sang Linda’s praises after she joined 106 other colleagues from across the UK sharing 2,860 years of service at a champagne reception at the London headquarters.
He said: “We could not do without Linda. We have got some fantastic people working here but Linda always stood out for her knowledge and care for her customers.”
Sacha Berendji, director of retail at M&S, said: “We are incredibly proud of our loyal workforce and we always enjoy recognising and celebrating important milestones.
“To be raising a glass and toasting more than 100 staff this year is a real testament to the quality and dedication of our employees. Our stores have evolved significantly over the years, but good customer service is till central to everything we do.”