Ipswich traders urge customers to support them this Christmas

Christmas shopping has started early in Ipswich town centre

Christmas shopping has started early in Ipswich town centre - Credit: Jessica Coppins/Archant

Traders in Ipswich town centre are urging shoppers to support them this Christmas, describing the next few week as vital after a brutal 18 months. 

Although there will not be a big lights switch-on this year due to Covid, the town is already lit up in the evenings and late-night shopping launches this Thursday - bringing a taste of Christmas to the town.

The Christmas lights will be going on soon in Ipswich town centre

The Christmas lights will be going on soon in Ipswich town centre - Credit: Jessica Coppins/Ipswich

Shopkeepers say they are already noticing a trend to shop early this year - while a thinktank boss says footfall here recovering better than it has elsewhere.

Centre for Cities’ chief executive Andrew Carter said: “Ipswich town centre is still feeling the effects of the pandemic, with footfall at the end of September about 80% of pre-Covid levels and spending at 90%.

"However, these have been steadily increasing since restrictions lifted in the summer and average footfall in Ipswich town centre is higher than the national average.

"We are now waiting to see whether the Christmas period will bring Ipswich’s footfall up further.”

Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement recently told how the nighttime economy had improved significantly, even though numbers of shoppers are still down on the pre-pandemic Christmas of 2019, partly due to the continued absence of office workers.

Coes department store in Norwich Road is unveiling its Christmas window display on Monday.

Fiona Coe, marketing manager at Coes

Fiona Coe, marketing manager at Coes - Credit: Charlotte Bond

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Marketing manager Fiona Coe said: "We have definitely seen people starting to shop for Christmas early, maybe because they feel there are going to be shortages, but we have definitely seen it in the last week."

She added they were also seeing a trend to shop local, which was very welcome.

"I think a lot of people don't want to travel and do their Christmas shopping in London - more people are saying they want to shop near home."  

Andrew Marsh with some of the quirky Advent calendars in his shop Dial Lane Books in Ipswich

Andrew Marsh with some of the quirky Advent calendars in his shop Dial Lane Books in Ipswich - Credit: Jessica Coppins/Ipswich

Andrew Marsh, owner of Dial Lane Books in Ipswich town centre, is seeing a slightly mixed picture so far.

"It's getting there slowly. There are some days it's really good in the shop - other days it's really quiet.

"Coming up to Christmas, hopefully there's going to be a lot more people coming in. What I think is a big thing is for people to get behind Ipswich itself, and to come into Ipswich where possible to do their shopping.

"There's a lot of negativity about the town, and we need to just see that there is a lot of good stuff out there, a lot of independent businesses and a thriving high street."

Andrew added: "People are coming in at the moment for the advent calendars and the pop-up books that I do, but I've not seen that much hectic traffic in the shop as yet. So hopefully, fingers crossed, that's coming."

Andrew Marsh of Dial Lane Books in Ipswich

Andrew Marsh of Dial Lane Books in Ipswich - Credit: Jessica Coppins/Archant

The Saints Festive Market in St Peter's Street, one of the events that really gets Christmas started, is also lined up on November 28.

Organiser Cathy Frost of LoveOne gift shop said there will be a great range of craft and artisan stalls at the event, which runs from 10am to 4pm and supports the local traders. 

Cathy said she had noticed some early shopping in her store this year and thought it would step up now the Christmas lights are on.

Cathy Frost at her gift shop LoveOne in Ipswich, looking forward to Christmas 

Cathy Frost at her gift shop LoveOne in Ipswich, looking forward to Christmas - Credit: Jessica Coppins/Archant

"I'm always excited about Christmas. It's the best time of year for us and we are a gift shop, so this is where we come into our own.

"Now that we've had Bonfire Night and Halloween, people think it's OK to shop for Christmas, and they are definitely buying for Christmas now. 

"I've been here 14 years and I've always supported local. It's really important, because we are not just businesses, we are part of the community, and you need a mixture on the high street now.

"I think the Shop Local message is definitely getting through this year and people are definitely supporting us, and the street, and the independents around here. I'm optimistic that that's going to be the way forward."

Festive shop displays are appearing in Ipswich town centre

Festive shop displays are appearing in Ipswich town centre - Credit: Jessica Coppins/Archant