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Businesses in Suffolk and Essex count cost of the ‘Beast from the East’

PUBLISHED: 13:22 01 March 2018

The Giles statue in Ipswich town centre.

The Giles statue in Ipswich town centre.

Archant

The retail and logistics sectors are continuing to bear the brunt of the impact on business from the big freeze.

Most shops have continued to trade but footfall in town centres has been badly affected and issues with restocking could emerge if the cold snap continues.

Mike Sorhaindo, centre manager at the Sailmakers shopping centre in Ipswich, said: “We are coping well despite the conditions but it is fair to say that footfall has been affected.

“A lot of people have clearly decided not to venture out, and the closure of a number of schools has also no doubt kept some people at home.”

However, he said that the centre was continuing to trade normally, with only one of two small shops having to close due to people being unable to get into work, and stores were also continuing to be restocked despite some deliveries arriving later than planned due to conditions on the roads.

“We are very grateful to staff for making extreme effort to get in to work,” he said. “Our priority is to ensure that customers can use the centre safely and we are working to keep the entrances clear.”

Mr Sorhaindo added that it was harder to assess the financial impact on individual stores, but said the centre did at least provide some protection from the elements for those shoppers who were turning out.

Paul Davey, head of corporate affairs at the Port of Felixstowe, said: “Over the last couple of days we have been affected for periods of time, and people have been busy with de-icing. However, the port is partially open.”

Rail operations were working “quite well”, he added, although on the road haulage side there were parts of the yard currently without access due to the volume of snow.

Denise Rossiter, chief executive of Essex Chambers of Commerce, said: “Essex businesses are very resilient and cope with everything that is thrown at them. Bad weather is just another thing, but it does show the need for a more robust transport system.”

The Government also needed to invest to support town centres, she added, with the bad weather adding to the pressures faced by retailers.

“Our high streets are degenerating, not regenerating, and if things go on as they are there will come a point – although not yet – when businesses will give up and we will be left with nothing but coffee shops and eateries.”

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce said that, like many businesses, it was making use of technology enabling many of its people to work from home.

Spokesman Paul Simon said: “It’s about being a pragmatic and caring employer as well as serving members. It’s more or less ‘business as usual.”

However, he added that the issue with the weather underlined the need for more robust broadband infrastructure in the county, without the “not spots” currently affecting some areas.

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