Basildon's long awaited brand new Marks & Spencer finally opened its doors to eager customers today.

Crowds gathered outside the 9,000sq ft Simply Food store to get a first glimpse as the ribbon was officially cut by store manager Steve King and long-serving staff member Janet Morgan.

Hundreds of customers were greeted with a champagne reception as they browsed the aisles stocked with fresh produce, ready meals, gift cards and snacks.

The building, which was previously an MFI furniture store, is also home to an in-store bakery and 50-seater cafe.

Proud manager Mr King said: “It’s fantastic that we have finally opened here at Mayflower Retail Park, it’s something that we’ve wanted to do for a long time and we’re proud to be doing this for the company.

“This is a perfect location. The Simply Food store is a really good addition for Basildon and will complement the shop we already have in the town centre.

“The turnout for our opening has been amazing. All week people have been trying to get in. I think M&S is so popular because it really is the best product out there. If people are having a celebration they can come to us for something special but we also do good-quality everyday products.”

  • Special report in Thursday's Echo.