Shopping gurus need to get real

THIS week’s report on the state of our town centres by retail guru Mary Portas looks like required reading from those who are trying to revive traditional shops.

And to be fair Ipswich Central bosses seem to have taken on many of her suggestions – they seem to be doing many of the things that she is recommending.

However, I do wish that some self-appointed shopping experts would get real and think what it is like to be an ordinary person.

When I read about members of the aristocracy wittering on about the joys of “traditional shops” and the joys of the local farmers’ market, I do wonder just what planet they are inhabiting.

Frankly normal people with busy jobs haven’t got the time or, in most cases, the inclination to go padding around stalls poking and prodding to work out which marrow is best or whether the celery is local.

Those of us who are busy all week are quite happy to do a big hit at Asda, or Tesco, or Sainsbury’s, or Morrisons on a Saturday morning and leave the rest of the weekend free to enjoy ourselves.

The same is actually true for those who live in many of the market towns that people are getting worried about. They might fight against any attempt by Tesco or whoever to open there, but the simple fact is that many of their residents do their shopping by leaping in their cars and driving down to Martlesham, Warren Heath, or Copdock Mill!

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The challenge for Ipswich town centre is to attract shoppers from towns and villages within about 20 miles to come here for the “retail experience” by providing restaurants, cafes, and leisure opportunities as well as high-class shops.

The battle with out of town superstores for the “weekly shop” has largely been lost, especially for those households with a car – but another battle for the high streets and town centres is now well under way – and shops need to face the facts of life.