‘There is a crisis on the high street’ – Why Ipswich town centre must adapt to survive
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich town centre must adapt to the changing world in order to survive, a business leader has warned.
A wave of store closure announcements has hit the town in recent weeks and Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement says the traditional high street model no longer works.
"What is going on is a crisis on the high street", he said, "It's affecting a lot of large retailers, many of which have been around for decades."
This month alone has seen four retailers announce they will be closing down.
Riley & Riley Jewellers in Buttermarket, Trespass in Westgate Street, Ohh Deer in Thoroughfare and Cotswold Outdoors in Tavern Street will all be leaving the town.
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In addition the long term future of stores such as Select and Peacocks remain unclear, due to financial difficulties and rent negotiations.
Ipswich Central represents the interests of shops and businesses in the town centre.
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Mr Clement explained the new problems facing these businesses, such as declining footfall and the rise in online shopping, is not part of a cyclical downturn which traders can wait out.
Rather the problem lies in the fundamental structure of the high street.
It is this classic structure which must develop to meet new consumer habits.
"This is not an Ipswich problem, it's a national problem," said Mr Clement.
"The future of town centres is not old retailers being replaced with new ones. We have to think of different uses."
The chief executive pointed to the plans to build a new free school in the former site of Ipswich Co-op department store, on Carr Street, as an example of how the town is beginning to alter the classic makeup of the high street.
He also highlighted the increased investment in the Cornhill and Buttermarket areas of the town centre as examples of the positive investment coming into Ipswich.
Mr Clement added: "There is a huge investment in the town centre - we shouldn't just look at it through a retail lens."