Gifts Today magazine

The only way really is Essex

Thanks to the telly behemoth that is TOWIE many people who don’t hail from or live in the county simply regard Essex as little more than fake tans and teeth, vajazzles, and being reem.

The [structured] reality is very different. Increasing numbers of switched-on retail brands are looking beyond the stereotypes and investing in a dynamic county that has a bigger GDP than Belgium.

With such a vibrant economy, it’s little wonder that the locals like to work hard and shop even harder. And, in the case of the latter, they like to do it at Freeport Braintree.

Freeport’s claim to be the “premier outlet in Essex” isn’t mere marketing puff.

The retail village that boasts more than 80 stores, each offering up to 60% off the normal RRP, is booming. In the first twelve weeks of 2016 it opened six new stores – William Hunt, White Stuff, Beauty Outlet, Joy, Ann Summers and Wildwood Restaurant & Deli– leasing almost 10,000 square feet between them.

In the case of William Hunt, Ann Summers and Wildwood, Freeport has inspired their first forays into the outlet sector.

And for Savile Row-based tailor William Hunt – more used to dressing footballing legends David Beckham and Christiano Ronaldo, Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay and rock god Robert Plant – to select Freeport Braintree as the location for the firm’s maiden expansion out of central London, clearly demonstrates that it knows it is onto a winner.

Centre Manager Josef O’Sullivan thinks he knows why: “Freeport Braintree is a unique village style outlet shopping centre that is set in the heart of Essex. We are within an hour of central London with great accessibility via key A-Roads, free parking for up to six hours and even our own train station, which means we attract guests from Essex, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and London. We even have Stansted Airport only 15 minutes’ drive away!”

He added “It’s a great pleasure to welcome these fabulous brands to our centre which fortifies our incredible brand mix. Freeport Braintree is a highly desirable and vibrant destination where brands can comfortably extend their retail presence in a premium environment without compromise. Our Centre is in vogue with the shifting social habits and attitudes of its guests and they regard our centre as a must visit destination for value and a satisfying retail experience.”

His comments are supported by Essex Chambers of Commerce. Its Chief Executive is Denise Rossiter: “This is good news not just for Freeport, but also for Essex itself. The investment by these store operators is a vote of confidence in not just Freeport itself, but the wider economy in Essex. Our proximity to major centres such as London and Cambridge have meant that businesses of all types, including major retailers, looking to grow are increasingly realising that Essex is good for business and choosing to locate within our county. It is often said that our economy is bigger than Belgium’s – Essex is booming.”
A vital aspect of Freeport’s success lies in the fact that the management team is attracting and delivering the stores its customers want. It is part of the Realm group, which operates the largest portfolio of outlet centres in the UK. Realm’s committed to talking with and listening to its target audience via sophisticated market research, helps to shape its operations. Research conducted in 2014/5 gave shoppers the chance to vote for new stores they wanted to see at Freeport Braintree. The resultant wish list delivered Kurt Geiger and French Connection. In typical Essex fashion, Ann Summers completed that list, joining brands such as Ted Baker, Hollister, Molton Brown.

More details can be found here.

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