Is Marks & Spencer still Britain's top knicker shop?

Girl in Lingerie - Liska

Janie Schaffer, the so-called "knicker queen", has resigned from her post as head of lingerie at Marks & Spencer after only three months.

The knicker queen is dead, long live the knicker queen! Actually, she is very much alive, but perhaps M&S's knicker offering isn't, because the store had brought in Schaffer – who got her nickername because she launched Knickerbox in the 80s and was later creative head of Victoria's Secret – to revive its drooping drawers sales. Sales figures for M&S's general merchandising arm declined 3.8% in the fourth quarter. It is still grappling with reviving its clothing offering.

This matters because M&S is still at the heart of the British high street and knickers are very much at the heart of M&S. But is it still where women really like to buy their knickers?

Here is what a random sample from the streets of north London says: Charlotte, 23, shops at M&S for knickers but "for lingerie" (a distinction that would pain Marc Bolland) she prefers "nice boutiquey places". Toni, 30, likes La Senza, as does Julie, 26, because "it's a bit like Victoria's Secret but less over the top". Kim, 47, buys hers from Primark: "I don't have much disposable income. I'm happy with them because they're very cheap." Sarah likes Gap. Someone else yells "La Senza!" over her shoulder. Harriet, 50, recommends because they are made of organic cotton and "last for ever". I bought mine from Hanro because they looked good on Nicole Kidman – no, not in those scenes – in Eyes Wide Shut (1999: knickers that last).

Doesn't anyone buy their knickers from M&S? Hold on! Here's someone, who prefers not to give her name and describes herself as "60-plus". "They're reliable," she says. As in they wash very well, the pricing is consistent and the elastic doesn't break? She thinks for a moment. None of those things. "I know what I'm getting." Angela, 31, another M&S devotee, puts it succinctly. "You don't need to make a decision," she says. "They're just there."

Powered by article was written by Paula Cocozza, for The Guardian on Wednesday 17th April 2013 16.02 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010