Which shops will Ipswich lose forever after Covid?
- Credit: Paul Geater
When non-essential retail shops do open up in Ipswich town centre again after April 12, there will be big gaps where stores have failed over the last 12 months - with yet more closures still to come.
According to Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement about 14% of stores that were open before the start of the pandemic will not reopen, or will close in the next few months - more or less in line with the national average for large towns and cities of a similar size.
But there are some factors that are worse in Ipswich. Mr Clement said: "What makes it particularly bad here is that we are seeing the closure of more larger units than most places - we know about Debenhams which is likely to close by the summer but there are other substantial units that are also shutting.
"I have to say, they are not all shutting because of the Covid pandemic. These are stores and businesses that would have ceased trading anyway over the next few years because of serious financial problems - but the pandemic and the lockdowns have speeded up that process dramatically.
"And I don't think the process has finished. There are other businesses that are effectively trading with CVAs (Company Voluntary Arrangements) that appear to be in a very difficult position and could be very vulnerable."
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We have been through the town looking at some of the stores that will not be reopening when non-essential shoppers do return to the town.
Debenhams. The town's largest store will reopen after the lockdown - but only for a few months to allow existing stock to be sold off, before permanent closure.
Bonmarche, Westgate Street: Part of the same group which included Edinburgh Woollen Mills and Peacocks which went into administration in December.
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Office shoes, Westgate Street. The company was a major creditor of Sir Philip Green's Arcadia Group and was looking at restructuring involving a number of shop closures before lockdown. The Ipswich store will not be reopening.
Hotter Shoes and Paperchase, Tavern Street: Both closed their doors last year during earlier lockdowns and there are few signs of any new tenants moving in.
Topshop and Topman, Sailmakers Shopping Centre. The collapse of the Arcadia group and the subsequent sale of these brands to ASOS means that it looks unlikely the store in Sailmakers will reopen, even for a closing down sale. Unlike the Debenhams deal, it appears that new owners ASOS have taken over the existing stock which they are selling online.
Thorntons in Tavern Street. The shop was recently cleared and listed for rent by a commercial estate agent.
Jack Wills, Tavern Street: Emptied during the first lockdown and with its owner The Fraser Group (Sports Direct) having bought the old BHS store in the Buttermarket, this store is now closed. Tesco, which had planned to open a Metro store there before Jack Wills arrived, has applied for a drinks licence for the site - but there have been few signs of any more progress on this site over the last six months.
Peacocks in Carr Street seems to have had a closing down sale for years - but the collapse of its owning group in December seems to have sealed the fate of the popular budget clothing store.
Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Butter Market: This store was emptied shortly before the start of the second lockdown - suffering a similar fate to its sister companies Peacocks and Bonmarche.
Lakeland Plastics, Butter Market: The Ancient House is one of the most important buildings in Ipswich and Lakeland's announcement it was pulling out of its historic site has caused a headache for landlord Ipswich Council which now has to consider what should be the future for the iconic building.
Waitrose, Corn Exchange: The Little Waitrose in the Corn Exchange closed just before Christmas - leaving another gap in the town centre and reducing the food offer for residents.
As well as the closures during lockdown, there are other empty sites in the town centre that also need occupants - the Old Post Office and Grimwades dominate the Cornhill along with Debenhams, and finding new uses for those three iconic buildings is seen as critical to the town centre.
However, there have been a few openings during the lockdown, especially by food retailers.
BonBon has opened in the Butter Market selling pastry treats.
Cake Box in Carr Street sells egg-free treats as well as having a strong online presence.
Hank's Deli opened in Lloyds Avenue in 2019 but was so popular with its delivery service during the first lockdown that it has now opened in the former Maplin Unit in Carr Street.
And a possible future for the town centre can be seen in the Butter Market where Tooth Club dental practice has opened in a former retail unit - heralding the start of a mixed use for the area.