Shop owner on a tough start to year in Ipswich town centre

Charlotte Bond

Footfall in Ipswich slightly rose, but January was still a difficult month says a shop owner - Credit: Charlotte Bond

An Ipswich shop owner has said it was the second-worst January he's experienced in nine years of running the business.

He was speaking after data from Centre for Cities showed the number of shoppers on the high street has returned to pre-pandemic levels for weekends and evenings, though remains low for weekdays.

Antonio Bellini, owner of The Italian Shirt Shop in Ipswich, is nervous to order stock from the EU b

Antonio Bellini, owner of The Italian Shirt Shop in Ipswich - Credit: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Antonio Bellini, of The Italian Shirt Shop in St Peter's Street, believes the current climate for the high street is "down but not down by anything too drastic".

Antonio said: "I've actually had the second-lowest January takings over the last nine years.

"Only a few customers is the difference between a good month and a bad month.

"Last week I had nothing until Friday afternoon, no money in the till, not a penny.

"Saturday was absolutely terrible. I had two customers all day and that’s the busiest day of the week."

Though he says this doesn't necessarily mean too much, as bad weather on a day can put people off going into town.

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He was speaking after the Centre for Cities report revealed shoppers have mostly returned to Ipswich but are spending far less than they did before the pandemic.

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

But they 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.

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. 

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."