While online shopping and trips to large superstores has become more popular over recent years, in the heart of rural Suffolk a growing retail outlet has shown there is still a place for the individual sales touch.

The position of Ipswich town centre has caused concern recently - with cabinet minister Michael Gove raising the lack of action over its Town Fund deal in the House of Commons.

And the number of empty units in the town has led to unflattering comparisons being drawn with Bury St Edmunds

But other rivals have also emerged -  Stonham Barns on the A1120 near Debenham now has 50 retail units with 46 fully occupied.

New tenants have recently moved to the site and others are expanding as demand increases.

Five new and unique businesses are joining the 40 plus outlets already trading at the venue. They include a wood carving business, a new laundry business, a business that retails etched glass products and a new tattoo studio.

Many of the entrepreneurs at the centre are women – about 70% of the outlets - with businesses ranging from fashion and jewellery to baby products and sweet shops. 

These new start-ups are joining some established retailers at Stonham Barns where retailers offer everything from bridal gowns to garden offices along with craft stores and galleries like Sakura which showcases artists from across the county.

Planning permission has been granted for more outlets to be included in the Retail Village envelope, clustered around the existing market square. These are fully insulated composite feather board pods designed to bring maximum space and light to start-up businesses.

Ipswich Star: Stonham Barns owner Alan ForwardStonham Barns owner Alan Forward (Image: Stonham Barns)

Stonham Barns owner Alan Forward said: ‘"This is one of Suffolk’s premier leisure, retail and holiday destinations.

"As a venue, we attract thousands of visitors each month for a variety of reasons – whether it’s coming here for holiday breaks, golf, to eat and drink or to attend one of our many shows – and so there is always a ready supply of potential retail customers here for start-up businesses.’

He added: "It makes sense that more people are choosing out of town shopping to make the experience more memorable particularly when we have other attractions on hand too.

"Why not do some shopping and then visit the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary or Adventure Golf Course?"