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Footfall figures for Bury St Edmunds are 'very encouraging' in challenging retail climate

Debenhams at the Arc shopping centre at Bury St Edmunds Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Debenhams at the Arc shopping centre at Bury St Edmunds Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Archant

More people visited Bury St Edmunds town centre in the first three months of 2019 than the same period last year, according to latest footfall statistics.

Our Bury St Edmunds chief executive Mark Cordell in the Arc shopping centre  Picture: OUR BURY ST EDMUNDSOur Bury St Edmunds chief executive Mark Cordell in the Arc shopping centre Picture: OUR BURY ST EDMUNDS

The figures, provided by Springboard the UK's leading provider of data and intelligence on “customer activity”, revealed a 4% increase on the number of people visiting the town centre compared with 2018.

Mark Cordell, chief executive of Our Bury St Edmunds Business Improvement District (BID), said the first quarter figures were “very encouraging” as the performance of similar sized market towns across the UK showed reductions on last year.

In challenging times for retail, and despite some key unit closures over the past 18 months, Bury continues to perform well compared with other towns both regionally and nationally.

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Mr Cordell said: “It's very encouraging and great that the town continues to do well. Superdry is opening in the Arc [shopping centre] and the new Japanese restaurant Sakura is going into Cupola House.

The Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds.The Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds.

“But we must not be complacent and need to continually look at what the town is offering as a visitor destination to attract people here.

“We are well aware that the retail landscape is changing and need to make sure that the town adapts to that.”

It has been a positive few weeks for Bury, which was named as the Sunday Times' 'Best Place to Live in the East' at the weekend.

The national recognition followed the announcement that nearly £10million was ploughed into the town's hotels last year to meet the growing tourist demand.

St Edmundsbury Cathedral viewed from the Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds Picture: ARCHANTSt Edmundsbury Cathedral viewed from the Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds Picture: ARCHANT

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Sue Warren, from Bury St Edmunds and Beyond, the town's tourism brand, said the investment was a “vote of confidence” for the growth of the visitor economy.

“The £10m is a great vote of confidence in the continuing growth of the visitor economy and is a sign that Bury is becoming more well-known as a destination,” she said.

“This year, we're celebrating 200 years of the Theatre Royal and next year will mark the Abbey's 1,000-year anniversary.

“All these things give us the chance to talk about Bury on the national stage as well the local stage.”

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But there is a cloud on the horizon – the future of the Arc's centrepiece Debenhams store remains uncertain following the company's recent troubles.

The retailer, which is the biggest department store chain in the UK with 166 stores, has been taken over by lenders after entering administration.

A total of 50 of the chain's stores are earmarked for closure but Debenhams has not yet announced which shops will go.

Mr Cordell added: “It's very much a case of wait and see. It's in the hands of the new owners and we await their decision.”

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