Shoppers are back in Ipswich but spending less money, study finds

Shoppers have returned to Ipswich high street but are spending less money than they were before the pandemic

Shoppers have returned to Ipswich high street but are spending less money than they were before the pandemic, a Centre for Cities study has shown - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

Shoppers have mostly returned to Ipswich but are spending far less than they did before the pandemic, a new study has revealed.

Town retail bosses said people had tightened their purse strings as a result of the cost of living crisis, but hoped that new businesses opening in the town this spring could see more cash flow through the tills.

Data from transactions and mobile phone locations analysed by the think-tank Centre for Cities showed that in January, the number of people coming into town had almost recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

But the people coming into town were spending just 78% of what they were before Covid-19. This is the fourth-lowest amount among large towns and cities in the UK.

Explaining why people coming into Ipswich were spending less, Andy Walker from Suffolk of Commerce said: "Places like Sudbury, Stowmarket and Woodbridge have seen huge increases in footfall and spend.

Andy Walker

Andy Walker - Credit: Archant

"Consumers are opting to stay closer to home and support independent retailers, and although individuals may still go into large economic centres to visit friends and family or to eat out, they are choosing to spend more in the smaller retail areas and market towns over traditional large-scale highstreets.”

Ipswich was the fourth slowest recovering high street in terms of spend behind only Aldershot, Slough and Birmingham. 

Sophie Alexander-Parker, the new boss of the Ipswich Central business improvement district, said the squeeze on household budgets had particularly impacted Suffolk's county town. 

Sophie Alexander-Parker

Sophie Alexander-Parker - Credit: Simply C Photography

"The last four months have seen a lower than average spend in Ipswich according to [our] data which is really when the challenge of rising costs of living started."

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Ms Alexander-Parker said the four high streets on the bottom of the pile had relatively low average incomes.

But she hoped that new hospitality and leisure businesses opening this spring would breathe new life into the town.

She said: "Honey + Harvey is due to being coming this month. BrewDog has just been agreed and work will start imminently. You've got The Botanist on the Cornhill that is going to be in by spring, we hope. And you've got the restaurant in Waitrose that is about to hopefully start."