'It breaks your heart' - Ipswich jewellery shop to close after 15 years due to poor footfall
A fresh blow has been dealt to Ipswich town centre after one of its longest-serving and most successful jewellers announced its closure - because a lack of footfall no longer makes it viable.
Riley & Riley has been a fixture of Ipswich's Buttermarket for 15 years, when owner Mark Riley moved from working in a nearby town centre jewellers to run his own store.
The business soon became a go-to place for larger purchases, such as engagement and wedding rings, as well as small gifts – and was so successful Mr Riley even opened a second store in Aldeburgh in 2013.
But as the store nears the end of its lease in September 2019, Mr Riley said a lack of footfall meant he had to take the “difficult decision” to close the shop in order to concentrate on its Aldeburgh store and workshop.
It is the latest in a series of challenges for Ipswich town centre, with the old BHS premises remaining vacant after closing in 2016 while a number of other high street brands face difficulties.
“It breaks your heart,” said Mr Riley, who has worked in Ipswich town centre for a quarter of a century and said numerous customers had expressed their sadness at the news on social media.
“Over the past two or three years, it's got harder to make a go of it.
“We have some lovely customers but the larger purchases are further apart than they used to be.
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“There are pressures from more than one angle. High street retail is being challenged and it doesn't matter how big your name is, you're not protected from it.
“People nationally are shopping less in town centres. Town centres are likely to change more to service-type retailers and perhaps quirky, one-off, unusual stores.”
He said Riley & Riley's Aldeburgh store had been less affected by the changes, because seaside tourists appear to be more prepared to make larger purchases while enjoying a holiday.
However he believes some of Ipswich's assets, such as the recently refurbished Crown Street car park, could benefit from greater publicity.
“We have met amazing people over the years and we want to thank every single one of you for all your support,” he said.
“Sadly there is no longer enough footfall in Ipswich to make it viable for us.”
Riley & Riley is now holding a half-price sale at its Ipswich store, which will remain open until August at least.
Its full range of services and products will be available at the Aldeburgh store.
Earlier this year Paul Clement, chief executive of Ipswich Central business improvement district – set up to represents firms in the area – said that Ipswich needed to fundamentally transform its town centre because the retail sector is “in decline”.