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Ipswich: County town celebrates best pre-Christmas shopping spike for years

PUBLISHED: 14:39 14 January 2014 | UPDATED: 14:39 14 January 2014

Shoppers headed to Ipswich for Christmas.

Shoppers headed to Ipswich for Christmas.

Archant

While town and city centres across the country struggled to attract shoppers in the run-up to Christmas, Ipswich enjoyed one of its best festive seasons for years according to the group which promotes its businesses.

Paul Clement, chief executive of Ipswich Central, said the town had had a hugely successful festive season.

“One of the leading surveys, by national accountants BDO, showed sales across the country in high street stores had fallen by 2.2% this year compared with last Christmas.

“We have now had figures back from businesses across Ipswich town centre, from national names to independents, and they show exactly the opposite.

“Their sales have increased by 2.03% this Christmas. That success extends to local branches of some of the national chains that have reported difficult trading periods. In Ipswich they have done much better than elsewhere.”

Mr Clement said the town had worked hard to link in new technology with traditional shopping. Its “All About Ipswich” app had encouraged people to look up what was available where while they were out shopping.

And the stores had benefitted from customers using “click and collect” to pick up goods that might not be available on the shelves.

“What is especially encouraging is that shops that have invested in the town have done particularly well here. That must mean it will be easier to persuade existing businesses to refresh or expand their stores.”

Major investment is coming in the town this year with conversion work due to get underway within weeks to create a new Vue multiplex cinema in the Buttermarket Centre – along with several family restaurants.

Mr Clement said: “Things are looking promising for the town centre – hopefully things will continue to improve.”

Mike Sorhaindo, centre manager of Tower Ramparts shopping centre in Ipswich, said footfall numbers in November and December were “higher than expected”.

“The week of Christmas was 11% busier than last year,” he said. “Many stores reported their busiest day of the year on December 27.”

However Daniel Le Sauvage, director at Urban Vintage in Ipswich’s town centre, said he “100% feared” for high streets – and businesses would have to adapt.

“More people are shopping online and visiting out-of-town stores with bigger premises and cheaper parking,” he said.

“High streets have their days numbered. It’s sad to see. There are too many pound shops and coffee shops and not enough to do. Towns will lose their personalities.”

He said click-and-collect saved his Christmas, contributing to one in every four sales.

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