Firms urged to return to Ipswich town centre offices to help struggling High Street
- Credit: Archant
Businesses in Ipswich are being urged to get their workers back into the office for the sake of the struggling high street.
Terry Baxter, chairman of Ipswich Central, has today written an open letter to 150 non-retail companies based in the town centre, asking them to bring staff back to work when it is safe to do so.
Estimates show the 25,000 people who normally work in the non-retail sector in the town could contribute up to £13m to the local economy per year by shopping at food outlets, grocery stores and coffee shops.
However, it is estimated only two thirds of town centre visitors have returned since lockdown restrictions were relaxed.
MORE: Can Debenhams store in Ipswich be saved from threat of liquidation?In the letter, Mr Baxter said: “The past few months have been incredibly difficult but, as I write this letter, local cases of Covid have continued to fall, with Ipswich and Suffolk emerging as places where the virus is most controlled.
“For those businesses that have opened, trade has been above national averages.
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“Local residents have shown confidence to return to our town centre.
“Finally, there are reasons to feel more positive.
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“However, the numbers of people in the town centre are only averaging two-thirds of those we were seeing before this terrible virus came upon us.
“That means, that, despite the work that we and our partners have undertaken, many businesses are trading at a level that, in the long term, could prove unsustainable.
“Hence, I am fearful for the long-term future of many.”
MORE: Suffolk jobs at risk as Marks & Spencer announce 950 job cutsBusinesses were forced to close and staff members asked to work from home at the end of March due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Since then lockdown measures have been relaxed and the economy, which took a huge hit during spring, has started to recover.
However, Mr Baxter said the “crucial element” for the town centre is getting staff members back to the office.
“The missing element is the return of all those who normally work every day in the town centre and habitually use all aspects of its economy - shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and so on,” he said.
“Our town centre economy can only thrive through one business and its staff supporting the others. We all have our role to play.
“A successful town centre impacts upon the livelihoods and futures of every Ipswich citizen.
“It is their town centre and they cannot afford for it to be lost or diminished. Without a thriving town centre, they would be enormously disadvantaged.”
MORE: Two Suffolk Pizza Express restaurants to closeConcluding the letter, Mr Baxter appealed to business leaders to not delay bringing workers to offices as soon as is safe to do so.
He added: “I have a simple, yet difficult, request.
“It is that, the moment you deem it appropriate, please do not delay in bringing your full workforce back to their desks in town.
“Their absence is the vital missing ingredient and the difference between other businesses riding out this storm or succumbing to it.
“This terrible virus has already caused too much hurt and anguish and has taken too many from us.
“Therefore, the well-being of your staff is, of course, of paramount importance.
“But, we have proven that the town centre is safe and secure, and we have worked with partners and businesses to put in the right measures to reassure everyone.
“Now, those businesses - many of whom have been arguably worst affected - want and need to welcome back your team.
“I don’t ask this lightly. I know that, for some of you, it will be a hard decision.
“But, other businesses are now really relying upon you.
“The future success of Ipswich town centre is dependent upon its ability to welcome back your staff.
“We urgently need your help to rebound and rebuild from this crisis.
Mr Baxter added that Ipswich Central will be willing to help businesses achieve his goal by assisting with extra measures and advice.
He concluded: “Please, please, help your local economy at this, its most difficult time.”