People flock to central Ipswich over Xmas – but were they shopping?

Burton on Tavern Street, Ipswich. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Burton on Tavern Street, Ipswich. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Ipswich town centre seemed busy over the Christmas period – but there is no way of telling how well major stores fared in the vital festive period.

There was no shortage of people in Ipswich town centre over Christmas, but how many were spending mo

There was no shortage of people in Ipswich town centre over Christmas, but how many were spending money? Picture:NIGE BROWN - Credit: Archant

Figures from the town’s car parks showed they were especially busy over the Christmas period – both during the run-up to December 25 and the days leading up to the New Year as sales were in full swing.

But Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement said major store chains did not give break-downs for individual branches so it was not possible to say whether people were actually parting with the money in the town’s stores.

He said: “Certainly from my point of view I felt the town centre looked busy with a lot of people around over the whole Christmas period.

“But retailers don’t reveal how individual stores performed so it is not possible to say how many of those people who were in the town were actually spending their money in the shop.

“Many of those people may have been using the town centre to meet friends or go to cafes or restaurants – but many will have been shopping as well.”

Nationally Christmas 2017 seems to have been a success for online retailers and those stores with a strong online presence while more traditional “shops” have struggled to achieve the sales they hoped.

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Mr Clement said: “We have to think of the town centre as more than just shops – that is what we are seeing with some of the recent developments in Ipswich.”

January and February are traditionally challenging times for retailers – and it is not uncommon to see businesses that have struggled over Christmas forced to restructure themselves or even go to the wall.

Although it is not represented in Ipswich, House of Fraser is looking to renegotiate the rents on some of its stores – as is the Byron Burgers chain which has a branch in the Buttermarket Centre.

Debenhams’ sales nationally were disappointing over the Christmas period and other stores are to report figures over the next few weeks.

One area where stores may have done well this Christmas is with “click and collect” purchases where customers order goods online to pick up from their local branch – eliminating the need to wait at home for a parcel or risk having something valuable left by the back door.

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