New town centre stores are a start, but much still to do
- Credit: Archant
The news that one of the largest shop units in the heart of Ipswich is to have new tenants after sitting empty for the best part of a decade must be seen as good for the town.
However I can understand that the prospect of a new Iceland and Poundland opening on two floors of what was originally the Littlewoods department store at Tower Ramparts is hardly likely to have the upmarket shoppers from Woodbridge and Framlingham flocking to the county town!
If you look at the street map of Ipswich town centre, it is not difficult to see why Poundland and Iceland were attracted to the two units once the shopping centre managers decided to split them.
Both appeal to shoppers on a budget, and are right next to the town’s major bus station which will bring their natural customers right to their door.
Other large towns and cities have more than one branch of these stores so that is not really a serious issue.
What is a concern for Ipswich town centre is the difficulty it seems to have in attracting big name retailers who will be able to attract shoppers from a wide area to the town.
If the arrival of Poundland and Iceland were combined with news that an up-market fashion store was moving into the old Grimwades store, or that a nationally-known lifestyle brand was interested in the old Croydons store then that would give the town centre a huge boost.
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What is needed is for one major new retailer to see the benefit of coming to town – of seeing that actually there are a people with good disposable incomes living in and around Ipswich to make it worth their while.
I visit Cambridge quite regularly. It has some great shops in the city centre that attract visitors from a wide area. It also has the Grafton Centre about half a mile from the city centre itself which is similar in character to Ipswich town centre. They exist comfortably beside each other.
I have heard people say: “Of course Cambridge is a very wealthy place.” Yes it is, but not everyone living or working in the city is as rich as Creosus. However it is able to attract people from a wide area.
If you look at the area around Ipswich there are communities which certainly appear to have high disposable incomes and which the town centre (and Waterfront) should be exploiting.
But the councils and Ipswich Central need to work very hard to persuade retailers (and other businesses like restaurants and cafes) that they can attract the visitors.
They will need to ensure there is good quality parking (not just cheap temporary parks) and that the town centre looks smart – ensuring that cracked paving bricks are replaced would be a good start – and getting the Cornhill sorted out is the vital start.