Fewer visitors are coming to Ipswich town centre post-Covid
- Credit: Paul Geater
Ipswich town centre has seen a dramatic fall in visitors from outside the borough since the Covid pandemic - and that means the amount of money spent there has fallen significantly.
Overall footfall is now back at pre-pandemic levels, but the amount spent has fallen by 7% - one of the biggest drops in the country according to the Centre for Cities think tank.
The proportion of visitors from outside the town has fallen heavily too - before March 2020 52% of the visits to the town centre were by people who live outside Ipswich. Now it has fallen to 44%.
The figure is even starker when weekend visits - typically people on shopping trips - are examined. Before March 2020 57% of visitors were from outside Ipswich, now the figure is just 41%.
Ipswich has suffered much worse than other nearby cities included in the survey. Norwich is now almost exactly back to pre-pandemic figures for visitors while Cambridge has seen an increase in the number of out-of-city visitors since the pandemic.
Spending in both Norwich and Cambridge is up on what it was before the recession. While weekday footfall in Cambridge remains lower than it was pre-Covid, weekend footfall is much higher.
This could be because many more students and highly-skilled workers in Cambridge are continuing to work from home after the recession.
A spokesman for Ipswich Central said the figures were not a huge shock because some of the town's largest draws had not survived the pandemic.
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Debenhams was the largest store in the town and Ipswich had also lost the Arcadia brands - Top Shop, Burtons and Dorothy Perkins.
He said: "It is vital that we do try to attract visitors from out of town - they will come in and spend longer here, visiting cafes and spending more money.
"The shoppers from Ipswich are important but they tend to make shorter trips to get what they want and then go out again."
Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere said the new statistics showed the importance of investing in the town.
"We have seen the opening of important new businesses like The Botanist and Honey and Harvey. That is important - but it will not be easy in the current economic climate."
He said the borough was in advanced talks with potential tenants for The Ancient House and was also talking regularly to Unex Investments which bought the former Debenhams building and has been stripping it out to prepare it to be marketed in the future.
"We are still waiting for money from the Towns' Fund that will allow us to set up a regeneration fund to get more units back into use.
"And we are looking at many more events to bring people in - for instance instead of an Ipswich Music Day there will be weekend festival with lots of things happening on the Saturday as well. Hopefully that will bring many people into the town."