Ipswich town centre businesses still struggle to bring back customers

PUBLISHED: 16:30 15 September 2020

The Edinburgh Woollen Mill has now reopened in Ipswich - without the

The Edinburgh Woollen Mill has now reopened in Ipswich - without the "closing down sale" signs. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN


Businesses in Ipswich are still struggling to recover from the lockdown despite a new report showing that the town is doing better than other East Anglian cities as the economy struggles to get back to normal.

Peacocks in Carr Street has now reopened in Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNPeacocks in Carr Street has now reopened in Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

That was the blunt message from the organisation representing businesses in the heart of the town after the Centre for Cities think tank produced a report saying that by the end of August footfall in the town centre was back to 78% of pre-Covid levels – that is much better than the figures for Norwich and Cambridge and on a par with Peterborough.

It said spending in the town was back to 79% of its pre-lockdown level.

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However Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement was sceptical about those figures: “Over a period of time we’re now up to about 60% of pre-lockdown business. And whatever way you look at it, it’s still very tough out there.

“I don’t want to sound unrealistically upbeat – I really cannot say that all the stores that are open now will still be here at the end of January. They still need people to come out and spend – and in particular they need people to come back to the offices in the town centre and spend their money here.”

The Ipswich Society this week posted optimistic pictures of Ipswich stores which had recently reopened – or removed posters advertising “closing down sale”. Both Peacocks in Carr Street and the Edinburgh Woollen Mill in the Butter Market appear to be trading normally.

Mr Clement said he understood that those stores – which have the same owner – may have been negotiating leases with landlords across the country which could have been the reason for their sale notices.

But since the start of September the borough council has seen more people coming to the town centre, especially at weekends, and that has prompted it to start opening its largest car park earlier again in a bid to attract more customers.

Most stores in the town centre have now reopened although there have been some closures and the Poundland store in Sailmakers is still “in hibernation” as the company concentrates on its branch in Carr Street. Traders are now preparing for the Christmas season which this year, more than ever, could be make-or-break for many businesses.

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