Why are so many Suffolk businesses moving out to the country?
PUBLISHED: 12:19 10 October 2018
Long-running Suffolk companies are exiting their town centre bases and building up their online trade from out-of-town sites.
Wine merchants Thos Peatling has left Bury St Edmunds after nearly 90 years in the town, relocating to owner Nicholas Corke’s home in the nearby village of Great Welnetham.
Nicholas Corke worked for Greene King for almost 20 years before in 2000 he led a management buy-out of the Peatling business, which at one time boasted 25 shops.
His team moved from a Georgian house with cellars in Westgate Street to a specially-built centre in Risbygate Street, before moving out of Bury altogether last month.
“We all know about the woes of the high street, so it could be the way forwards for a lot of people,” said Mr Corke.
“The Aldis and Lidls of this world make a thing of their wine range, but the biggest move in our market is towards online. There are some very big companies out there doing that.
“For us, we have chosen a different way of operating to save money on rates and rent and keep our costs to a minimum, then we can pass on those savings on to our customers.”
Another business to make the move out of town is Global Trading, a home interiors business which moved in August from a store on Quay Street in Woodbridge to Base Business Park in Rendlesham.
The 60 year-old family-run business began its life as a general furniture store and has just launched a new online shop specialising in high end ex-display and end of line items.
While one reason for the move was that the building was being redeveloped, managing director Richard Read explained: “We couldn’t have survived any longer in the present climate on the high street. We knew this day was coming and it slotted in with us getting out of the high street because of business rates and rents, to save costs.
“Retailers have been whinging about business rates for years but to date nothing has been done, and lots of stores are shutting down.
“Our actual rates was £10,000 and won’t be paying anything in the new address because our rent will come under the small business rate relief.”
There was no let-up in the woes of the UK high street this month, as retail sales growth grew by just 0.7%, the slowest growth in five months. Online retail fared better, with clothing sales taking the lead.
But the move to rural locations isn’t always prompted by efforts to save costs. Another business which has made the move out of Bury town centre recently is Ashtons Legal, which has moved 85 people from its headquarters office in Guildhall Street to a newly-converted barn at Fornham Business Court, just outside the town.
67 staff currently based at the Ashtons Legal office in Thetford will also transfer to the new site next year, following the construction of a purpose-designed building. According to Gina Long, who owns the premises with her husband Andrew Long, the main benefits of moving out of town are the “life-changing impact” that being in a rural location has on staff.
“So many people have come to us to say how refreshing it is to be at a rural location - they have picnics in the garden and go cycling and walking in their lunch hours. In some cases, they take their meetings outside,” she explained.
“Having free parking has been such a positive thing too.”