Passenger record smashed as rush begins

CHRISTMAS records were smashed by Ipswich Park and Ride when it saw a 70 per cent year-on-year increase in passengers going to the Christmas lights' switch on.

CHRISTMAS records were smashed by Ipswich Park and Ride when it saw a 70 per cent year-on-year increase in passengers going to the Christmas lights' switch on.

Figures out today indicate Christmas business is booming as the frantic rush begins.

During the week ending on November 13 there were 175,000 visitors to the centre, up from 155,000 the week before.

Paul Clement, director of the Ipswich Partnership, said: “The switch-on event is crucial to getting Christmas trading off to a good start. Park and Ride recorded a 70 per cent rise in usage compared to the lights' switch on last year.

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“This year we put on the biggest and most complex event ever held in the Ipswich town centre.

“Every partnership member who has reported figures to us has recorded a record day.

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“Ipswich has stolen a march on all of its opposition and with the giant Ipswichristmas marketing campaign to follow on - it's going to be difficult for them to now catch us up.”

Mike Sorhaindo , manager of Tower Ramparts shopping centre, said: “At the peak, just before Christmas, we expect 350,000 shoppers each week. Already the number of shoppers is growing steadily.

“During the last few weeks the seasonal feel has certainly started. Our Christmas lights are up and people are shopping for seasonal products and gifts.”

Mr Sorhaindo hopes that attracting lots of shoppers during the festive season will help shops recover from a sluggish year.

He said: “It has been a tough time recently in the retail market.

“Trading has been somewhat subdued but consumer confidence is coming back.”

Mr Sorhaindo said he thought all the shops in Ipswich would do well during the run up to Christmas but that gifts, cards, and party clothes for office parties would be the top sellers.

In order to maximise the number of visitors to Tower Ramparts, and to help people with nine to five jobs get their shopping done, the centre will be open until 9pm on Thursday evenings from tomorrow , along with other shops in the town.

Mr Sorhaindo said: “Late night opening is increasingly popular because working commitments mean people can't always shop when they want, so we see lots of couples and families on Thursdays.”

There will also be a Santa's Grotto on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, starting on December 1.

With all the hustle and bustle Mr Sorhaindo said that even the staff are getting into the festive spirit and thinking about what they should be buying for Christmas.

But although he hopes for more Christmas shoppers than ever this year, Mr Sorhaindo admits some things are unlikely to change.

He said: “Traditionally men leave it right up to Christmas Eve to do their shopping, and even though some are actually quite organised we accept this will happen again this year.”

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