You cannot buck the retail market
i DO have some sympathy for the owners of the former Civic Centre site in Ipswich who have seen their proposed new development blighted by first the proposed new Tesco at Grafton Way and now the John Lewis store planned at Ransomes Way.
However, I’m afraid that is a fact of life and if the council did not give the go-ahead for the John Lewis At Home store at Ransomes, the town would never get such a store.
Because while it’s all very well for the planners and the “retail gurus” to say that it would be better to have a full department store in the town centre, the simple fact of life is that no department retail stores want to come to this town.
Successive developers behind the Mint Quarter have talked about trying to get John Lewis interested in the site. They’ve failed. House of Fraser were signed up for Tower Ramparts a quarter of a century ago and then pulled out before the centre was ever completed.
Owen Owen and Allders struggled to make a go of the department store in the Buttermarket. And TJ Hughes (hardly the kind of retailer that would get people from all over Suffolk flocking to the town) finally went bust earlier this year.
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Department stores don’t want to come to Ipswich town centre. The choice for Ipswich was to have a John Lewis At Home store at Ransomes or have people from the town flocking to the store’s branches in Norwich or Cambridge.
This should not be seen as the death knell for Ipswich town centre – there is still much cause for hope as developments start elsewhere.
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When Tesco opens at Grafton Way that will be close enough to the town centre to provide a bridge with the Waterfront and the station.
And hopefully it will also be a magnet to draw people along the north/south axis linking the traditional town centre and the Waterfront.