Ipswich independent store Browne’s Menswear & The Dress Room to close after 80 years

PUBLISHED: 14:33 10 August 2015

Carol Lloyd of Browne's and The Dress Room in Upper Brook Street with a press cutting about the shop which is closing down.

Carol Lloyd of Browne's and The Dress Room in Upper Brook Street with a press cutting about the shop which is closing down.

One of the oldest independent shops in Ipswich is set to close at the end of the month.

Family-run Browne’s Menswear & The Dress Room in Upper Brook Street has been passed down three generations since its opening 80 years ago.

Current owner Carol Lloyd said the business had finally fallen after four years of struggling with increasing overheads and lack of trade.

This comes following the announcement that high-profile retailers Laura Ashley in the Buttermarket shopping centre and Next in Westgate Street will both shut before the end of the year.
Mrs Lloyd dubbed Ipswich’s high street a “vicious” place to trade, with businesses constantly trying to undercut each other with prices.

Browne’s Menswear & The Dress Room was originally bought by Mrs Lloyd’s grandfather, Charles Browne, who before that owned a wholesalers in Gymnasium Street, Ipswich.

The Grade II listed building was then passed down to his son, Douglas Browne, who left it in the hands of his daughter around 10 years ago due to ill health.

“When my mum died he didn’t want to know anymore but he didn’t let it go early enough, he was determined to hold on,” Mrs Lloyd said.

“This will break him – it’s taken three years to get him to say no more. It’s sad but it got to the point where we couldn’t carry on like this.

“We were left with no alternative, when you are starting to lose money it’s crazy but sometimes you just have to go forward in a different form.”

Mrs Lloyd will sell some products online, under a new brand name, and will keep the dress business running from a different premise, which she is currently searching for.

“You just can’t compete with the high street now, customers want the cheapest price as possible and suppliers cut me up on their websites,” she added.

“A lot of the stuff we used to sell is supplied by the companies themselves now. The internet is not a level playing field, costs are just so much lower.

“I could see it coming three or four years ago but my dad didn’t want to come to terms with it. My dad persuaded me to open the dress room to keep my interest, and that does well.”

Mrs Lloyd said in the last year the amount of customers coming into the shop had gone down by a third.

On top of paying out rising rent, business rates, electricity bills and staff wages, she said the shop had become “inviable”.

Making the decision to shut up shop was an “emotional” one, Mrs Lloyd said, as she had grown up with it and worked there for around 40 years.

“It’s difficult but you just have to have broad shoulders and deal with it,” she added.

Ipswich town centre has often been criticised for the amount of coffee, betting, mobile phone and charity shops that dominate the high street.

Mrs Lloyd added: “If you haven’t got independents then what’s going to pull people in to Ipswich? One town centre becomes just like any other.”

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