Visitors to Bury St Edmunds' town centre spending more and staying longer
PUBLISHED: 05:30 20 June 2019 | UPDATED: 08:12 20 June 2019
Visitors to Bury St Edmunds' town centre are spending more money and staying longer than ever before, a new study has revealed.
The annual 'benchmarking report' found that 98% of people would recommend a visit to the town to others and 55% have taken advantage of free parking from 3pm on a Tuesday - the highest since the initiative began.
The town's car parks are also busier than they have been since the survey began in 2012, and 90% of respondents welcomed West Suffolk Council's Pay on Exit parking trial, which started this month.
The study was commissioned for the eighth year by Business Improvement District (BID) organisation Our Bury St Edmunds and 631 people responded.
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Mark Cordell, Our Bury St Edmunds chief executive, said he was encouraged by the engagement and the results in a changing retail landscape.
"Nearly 60% of people rated our retail offer as a positive - on average in a large town the figure is less than a quarter," he said. "Many people added further comments, particularly highlighting what a positive effect our independent shops have on the town and how they'd like to see even more of them.
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"The range of restaurants and cafes was rated as a positive by 80% of those questioned and the markets by more than 60% - their highest score since the study began. "It was also very encouraging to see such a good response to the survey - more than double the numbers who took part in 2016 and 2017 and considerably more than last year too."
A total of 72% of people questioned said they visit the town centre at least once a week and 46% said they stayed for between two and four hours - the national figure is less than 20%.
The amount people are spending in the town centre is also on the increase - 55% said they spend more than £20 when they visit, the highest figure since the study began.
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Issues highlighted as negatives in the report, carried out by researchers from People and Places, were car parking and public toilets.
Mr Cordell added: "While there are many positives in this report, we also asked people what they perceived as the negatives and for their comments on changes they would like to see.
"These responses - and as in previous years many of the comments focused on car parking - will be looked at very carefully and of course we will make the local authorities we work with aware of them.
"I was heartened though to see such enthusiasm for the Pay on Exit trial - nearly 80% of those questioned indicated they would like to see such a scheme in more of the town's car parks."