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Freeports and Investment Zones – Opportunities for the consumer sector

Since their launch, Freeports and Investment Zones have captured the imagination of both local authorities and ambitious firms - particularly in relation to how they can take advantage of the favourable environment designed to help businesses grow.

Although both Freeports in Investment zones in many regions of the UK are still at the concept stage and haven’t fully got off the ground yet, there’s a strong expectation that they will lead to significant job creation in the future, help attract overseas’ investment, and ultimately drive levelling up throughout the UK’s economy.

As the Head of Irwin Mitchell’s retail, hospitality and leisure sector, I’m also excited about the potential that these locations have for consumer facing businesses. 

By way of a quick explanation, Investment Zones were launched by the Chancellor with the aim of driving investment and innovation across the UK. The government says it’s committed to establishing 13 across the UK, with each one benefitting from funding of £160m over 10 years and concentrate on different sectors. Greater Manchester, for example, is aimed at boosting the advanced manufacturing sector, whilst Liverpool is targeting life sciences. Digital and life sciences is the focus in West Yorkshire, whilst in the north-east, green industries and advanced manufacturing are the main target.


Designed to boost economic activity and drive the ‘levelling up’ agenda by fostering trade, investment, and job creation, Freeports allow goods to be imported without the usual tariffs. Additionally, companies operating within these areas can enjoy reduced property taxes and national insurance rates.

You may be asking, what’s in it for the consumer sector?

As you would expect, I’m a huge advocate of the tourism sector and believe it can indeed act as a catalyst for economic development in areas that have not traditionally been investment hotspots. By drawing visitors, these regions benefit from increased spending in various sectors, including leisure, retail, and hospitality, which in turn stimulates local businesses and infrastructure improvements. This economic boost can lead to the creation of jobs and enhance the overall quality of life for residents, fostering a positive cycle of growth and development.

I’m also confident that the domino effect of increased economic activity in each region will also lead to high demand for meetings, conferences, and events, necessitating the development of local hospitality services such as venues, catering, and accommodation. This, in turn, has the power to attract investment from hoteliers and restaurateurs looking to capitalise on a burgeoning market.

Improved infrastructure

Investing in the regeneration of areas by enhancing infrastructure, amenities, and transport can significantly boost the attractiveness of these locations as leisure destinations. Waterside locations, with their inherent charm, have the potential to draw more visitors, benefiting from their natural maritime connections. Freeports, leveraging these same connections, could see a similar uptick in leisure and tourism, contributing to a vibrant local economy and community revitalisation.

Ultimately, freeports and investment zones have the potential to be game changing in relation to improving local economies and boosting levelling up. Many of them are still in early phases so now’s the time for businesses in consumer facing sectors to keep a close eye on developments and announcements and be alive to new opportunities that emerge.