The move comes as a belated quid pro quo for the fashion advice M&S has apparently been receiving for three years from the middle England women's movement. It seems that WI members, traditionally associated with Nora Batty-style woollen tights, have played a key part in the reversal of the retailing chain's fortunes.
The secret came out when M&S chief executive Stuart Rose spoke at the WI annual meeting in the Albert Hall last week. Eight hundred WI members have taken part in focus groups assessing garments such as the waterfall-fronted coat modelled by Twiggy in adverts last year.
Olivia Ross, corporate PR manager at M&S, said the WI's contribution had been voluntary. She said the donation was "an evolution of the relationship" but declined to say how much it was.