A LOYAL Marks and Spencer customer received an in-store surprise while celebrating her 82nd birthday.

Rita Knott, from Charminster, was given flowers and a plaque from the Dorchester branch on Thursday.

Her niece Alyson Lanning organised the surprise remotely from Shrewsbury, with Rita having no idea what she had in store.

She said: “The manager and the staff at the store have been so supportive.

“It was just something we could give to her as something to remember.”

She added: “She’s probably been in there two or three times a week for the past 50 years.”

Rita was accompanied by her sisters, Leona Lanning and Dawn Linford, and her friend Marion Haward.

Her whole family was in on the surprise, including her son Darren.

Leona said: “It was a day she will remember for the rest of her life. Marks and Spencer couldn’t have done anything more.

“She had an absolute whale of a time. The plaque is sitting on a mantelpiece.”

Rita received Marks and Spencer vouchers as birthday presents.

Staff member Christine Dennis went on a personal shopping trip with her after she received her gifts.

Leona said: “Her whole life has been devoted to being a local girl. She just loves Dorset.

“The little Marks and Spencer bag has been a joke in the family for years. Marks and Spencer have grown with her.”

Allan Conroy, food manager at Marks and Spencer in Dorchester, presented Rita with her gifts.

He said: “The store manager said we could honour the occasion itself just to recognise it. It was a small gesture.

“It was all driven by the family. It was a good thing to be involved in. She is a well-known customer to the store.”