Interview with company behind Saffron Walden’s newest department store

SAFFRON Walden’s newest town centre store opened on Tuesday.

Westgate of Saffron Walden is occupying the former Eaden Lilley building on Market Square and has been a hive of activity since opening day (June 8).

The new store will also bring with it over 30 full- and part-time jobs and new additions to complement the town’s offering to shoppers.

But what else will it bring to Saffron Walden?

In an exclusive interview the Reporter speaks to Andy Simpson, retail executive of the company behind the new store, Anglia Co-operative.

Q - What do you feel the new store will bring to Saffron Walden?

A – It will provide the focal point for retail in the town centre, with a focus on fashion and home. We will also bring a retailer into Saffron Walden which works strongly with the local community and has a very established track record for its community support.

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Q – Why did you choose Saffron Walden?

A – The site was identified 12 months ago as a location that fitted in with our strategy to have a new department store format, going forward, with strong brand presence. What we’ve done is taken the elements that have worked well in our other Westgate stores and put them all together at Saffron Walden.

Q – How will the store impact on the town and, particularly, the town centre?

A – We hope it will further increase what is already good footfall to the town and, because of the strength of the fashion brands, it can provide an alternative to Cambridge.

Q – What is different about your brand to what is already on offer in the town?

A – We are focusing on introducing brands that are not currently sold in the town centre, such as Esprit, Wallis, Vero Moda, Motel, Polo jeans and Bradley handbags. In addition, our membership scheme rewards customer loyalty and the local community. As a Saffron Walden Community Member each shopper will earn a point for every pound they spend in store and, at the end of the year, these points are paid out as a share of the profits. Every pound spent by Community Members in Westgate Saffron Walden will also earn one point for Teenage Cancer Trust and Saffron Screen and when we hit the target of one million points we will donate �2500 to each of these charities.

Q – What products/facilities do you personally believe will be a hit with shoppers in Saffron Walden?

A – We are confident that the ranges we have put together will ensure the store becomes a popular destination in the town. We also expect the store’s restaurant facility will be very popular at key times. We believe, too, that our unique Community Membership Scheme will prove extremely successful.

Q – Are you targeting a particular demographic?

A – As we are well aware of the customer profiles of Saffron Walden we are targeting a very broad customer base across all ages to achieve a wider footfall.

Q - What will Westgate offer the town in terms of short and long-term employment?

A – We have taken on this particular store with the aim of being here for the long-term and, therefore, have been able to offer not only the current positions, but an avenue to further careers within our organisation. We have recruited from within the local area, including the management team.

Q – Is this the right time to be opening a new store given the unstable economic situation?

A – We feel it is the right time to open this store. Saffron Walden has a vibrant retail environment and we will complement this and, hopefully, everybody will benefit. We are also providing a lot of marketing support and PR activity to ensure we also attract new customers from the surrounding area to Saffron Walden town centre.