Can Ipswich prevent Marks & Spencer moving out of town centre?
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Council leaders in Ipswich hope they have done enough to keep Marks & Spencer in the town centre - and avoid a repeat of what is happening in Colchester.
It was announced this week that the company is planning to move to a new store on a retail park at Stanway, just off the A12 to the south of the town, and close its Colchester town centre store later this year.
There has been speculation for several years that the company wants to do the same in Ipswich - but has struggled to find an out-of-town site to operate alongside its food hall at Martlesham Heath.
Ipswich Council leader David Ellesmere said the authority had taken action to prevent Marks & Spencer being able to move out of town: "If we hadn't bought the old Toys R Us store I'm sure they'd have been in there straight away.
"And if we hadn't developed the old sugar beet factory at Sproughton as a business park I am sure there would have been retail go up there and that would have been attractive to them.
"It's clear M&S are looking at an out of town strategy."
The company has moved to out-of-town sites in several towns and cities across the country over the last few years, and announcing the Colchester move regional boss Andrew Icke said: “Shopping habits are changing, so we’re rotating our store estate to make sure we have the right stores to offer our customers a brilliant shopping experience."
Opposition leader at Ipswich Council Ian Fisher felt the authority should be offering the company incentives to stay in the town centre as well as putting up obstacles to them leaving.
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He said: "I know they have been moving out in some places but we should be looking to make it as attractive as possible to get them to stay in the town centre."
He feared the company might still be looking for a new site out of town.
Ipswich Central is also watching the situation closely - and said it backed the borough's moves to make it as hard as possible for the company to find an out of town site.
In a statement chief executive Sophie Alexander-Parker said: "It is disappointing to hear they are closing their store in Colchester town centre but it shows it is very important to do everything possible to persuade them to stay in the centre of Ipswich."