SHOPPERS in Southend and Leigh will benefit from two new convenience stores.

Supermarket chain Morrisons opened the Morrisons M Local stores in Southend High Street and London Road, Leigh on Monday.

The supermarket believes it has spotted a gap in the market for a store that offers more fresh food, rather than just tins and toiletries, so locals can cook meals from scratch.

The Southend store, in the former Currys building, was officially opened by five-year-old Ruby Truter-Banks, who presented manager Hayley Wilson with a picture of the store.

Hayley said: “We’re looking forward to bringing Morrisons M local to Southend and being at the heart of the community.

“We’ve already spoken to businesses and community groups.

We want our store to be a hub for local people and events.”

The Leigh store, a former County Interiors shop, was opened by seven-year-old Ella Barden, who suffers from a rare and fatal condition called Cockayne syndrome, which leads to premature ageing.

Store manager Kieran Forrester said: “I’d like to thank Ella for coming to open the store – she’s a real inspiration to us all.”

Both stores will feature a “food to go” section, where customers can pick up fresh coffee and pastries, and the Southend store will also sell hot food and have a full salad bar.

Housewife Tina Ghazali, 54, of Candy Terrace, Southend, said: “The stores are a good addition to the area. I’ll use the Southend one quite a lot. It’s handy to have a Morrisons nearby and there’s a fair selection of fresh food, which is important. I think it will do well.”

Retired Stephen Brown, 62, of Alexandra Road, Southend, said of the Southend store: “I’ll definitely use it – it’s in an ideal position.

I’d rather see a lottery outlet, but I’m happy to see it here. I usually use Sainsbury’s for a big shop, but I’ll use this one instead now.”

Shopper and barmaid Liz Warner, 50, of Glenwood Avenue, Westcliff, said: “It’s very busy.

The staff are friendly. Tesco seems to have taken over everywhere, so it’s nice to see a Morrisons.

“If I’m in Leigh or Southend, I’ll definitely go there.