John Lewis plans spark hope for Ipswich

UPMARKET retail group John Lewis would be a great addition to Ipswich, a top councillor said today after the chain announced plans to double its number of stores.

UPMARKET retail group John Lewis would be a great addition to Ipswich, a top councillor said today after the chain announced plans to double its number of stores.

Richard Atkins, planning and economic development portfolio holder for Ipswich Borough Council, said the 350,000 people who live in Ipswich or within 10 miles of it would support John Lewis if it came here.

Developers behind the planned £230million Mint Quarter shopping centre on Civic Drive hope to attract John Lewis to the complex's 40,000 square foot anchor store.

Mr Atkins spoke after the chain identified 30 possible locations for new department stories as part of an expansion plan. John Lewis is staying tight-lipped about where the stores will be.

Mr Atkins said: “John Lewis is a quality retailer. Should they decide to come here it would be a positive step.

“If they thought the population of Ipswich was too small in the past the recent rise will help.”

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Paul Clement, executive director of Ipswich Central, said: “At the moment it is pure speculation. John Lewis is an obvious missing name in Ipswich and if they came it would help the retail line-up in the town and the town would benefit from its presence.”

John Lewis has 26 department stores but aims to open another 24 in the next 10 years. Ten of the planned stores are understood to be smaller ones in smaller towns.

The 30 possible locations identified as being able to sustain a store were selected after a study of the trading potential of Britain's top 250 towns and cities.

John Lewis board members discussed the proposals last week.

The group will bring in retail architects from Japan to produce designs for the stores and is approaching property developers to find sites in the selected towns. It is also approaching local authorities.

A spokesman for the John Lewis Partnership said they would not confirm where any of the 24 sites were and said they were not giving a timescale for when the store sites will be revealed.

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