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Will people shopping local help to save Suffolk’s town centres?

PUBLISHED: 05:30 14 August 2020 | UPDATED: 10:09 14 August 2020

James Lightfoot said confidence had returned to Woodbridge town centre.  Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

James Lightfoot said confidence had returned to Woodbridge town centre. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Charlotte Bond

Suffolk towns have been seeing a post-lockdown bounce as residents prefer to buy local rather than spend their money at larger centres in other parts of the county.

The move has been boosted by an increase in the number of people working from home and not taking their cash and credit cards to larger centres – although in Ipswich itself that could be double-edged sword because some people who live outside the town have not been coming in to their offices here.

In smaller towns traders have noticed new customers who may normally shop during lunch breaks while at work in their offices. Now they are working from home they still want to take a break in the middle of the day and will visit local shops or cafes.

MORE: How Suffolk towns persuaded people it was safe to go back to the shops

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In Sudbury, Stowmarket and Hadleigh this has meant market traders operating on more days. A spokeswoman for Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils said: “It’s no surprise that our residents are rallying around to support their local towns – we’ve seen our communities pull together through the crisis and know that people take pride in living within our districts.

“We are doing everything possible within the current Government guidelines to support our local businesses and high streets to recover from the impact of coronavirus, while keeping shoppers safe.”

James Lightfoot from Choose Woodbridge said that while he had no figures to show how trading was doing at present, the message he was getting from businesses in the town centre was that confidence was returning and more people were spending.

Mark Cordell from Our Bury St Edmunds said footfall in the town was now approaching last year’s figures: “I don’t think we can say that is because fewer people are commuting, we’re not really a commuter town – but certainly people do feel more confident about visiting their local town centre and we are seeing the benefit of that.”

In Ipswich the situation was more complex because of the number of jobs in the town centre – and the fact that many businesses had not yet been able to bring everyone back to work in their own premises.

But Ipswich Central chairman Terry Baxter remained upbeat: “I do think the situation here is a bit more complex, but when I walk around the Waterfront and past some of the cafes in town it is becoming busier – and that really is what we need to see if the town is going to recover.”


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