IN A MOVE TO 'extend our market leadership from the physical into the virtual world', Marks & Spencer launched its first online shopping service on 8 November - accessible via its main website,

But the old M&S caution remains: its cyber-store is initially limited to just 200 'Christmas gift ideas', among them jewellery, clothing and hampers priced between £5 and £75. According to head of e-commerce, Peter Robinson, the range will be extended over the year ahead to at least 3,000 items. 'It is our long term strategic objective to be a reliable, convenient and easy to use shopping site', he said.

Delivery to any UK address is promised within seventy-two hours of placing the order. In best M&S tradition, however, credit cards are not accepted, although debit cards are honoured along with the M&S sto-recard.

Meanwhile, M&S’ recent Autumn Windfall promotion backfired after some customers ex-ploited a lucrative loophole. The promo, which offered a free £5 voucher for every £25 spent on clothing and homeware, allowed customers to redeem up to four vouchers. Unfortunately, a number of sly shoppers promptly marched round to the customer service desk to take advantage of M&S’ traditional no-quibble re-fund policy and returned the goods they had just bought for a refund - whilst holding onto the free vouchers. Tsssk!