In the past few years, we’ve sadly lost a number of shops on our high streets. 

But one Ipswich retailer has proudly bucked the trend, and certainly stood the test of time. 

Nearing its 100th anniversary Coes, on Norwich Road, remains one of Suffolk’s most popular and well-loved stores.

East Anglian Daily Times: WIlliam and Fiona Coe inside CoesWIlliam and Fiona Coe inside Coes (Image: Charlotte Bond, Newsquest)

David Coe took over the family business in 1957 following the unexpected death of his father William (Bill) Coe Sr, who founded Coes in 1928.

David not only grew the flagship store, but went on to open several branches across the region – a true testament to his skill as a retailer.  

Over the years, the Coes family has extended its original Norwich Road branch in all directions – and today it spans across three floors.  

East Anglian Daily Times: David CoeDavid Coe (Image: Coes)

Currently running operations are David’s son William (who is managing director), and his wife, marketing manager Fiona.  

The pair moved back to Ipswich in 1997, and soon threw themselves headfirst into the business, being as hands-on as possible.  

“William spent the first year or so learning the ropes, working around each department before becoming managing director,” explains Fiona.  

Fiona joined the business around 20 years ago - around the time Coes started selling womenswear. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Menswear in CoesMenswear in Coes (Image: Charlotte Bond, Newsquest)

With a marketing degree under her belt, she began immersing herself in fashion, and spent a lot of time in Europe, looking at brands and sourcing products.

“At the time we were having the big glass extension built on the side, and that felt like the perfect time to launch womenswear.” 

Today, Coes is known for stocking some of the biggest and best names in fashion.  

In the men’s departments, you'll find the likes of Ralph Lauren, Levi’s, Superdry, Scotch & Soda, Ted Baker, and Armani Exchange. Upstairs in the women’s department, you can find Barbour, Great Plains, Holland Cooper, and Ecoalf to name but a few.  

East Anglian Daily Times: Men's shoes in CoesMen's shoes in Coes (Image: Charlotte Bond, Newsquest)

For more dapper attire, there’s also a formal menswear department, and a hirewear floor upstairs. “This area is especially busy between now and the summer for weddings. We regularly fit big wedding parties, alongside people coming in for their first suit for work, or businesspeople who wear suits every day for work.” 

In addition, there’s a giftware department, and Coes is also an official school uniform supplier, looking after 35 schools across the region – equating to about 12,000 students a year. 

If it’s sports equipment you’re after, look no further than the specialist department upstairs. Coes prides itself on being the only place in Ipswich where you can get your hands on a proper cricket bat, and there are also dedicated hockey and tennis sections. “If you want to buy trainers, we can fit you on this specialist machine. It analyses how you run and tells us what trainer is best for you.” 

East Anglian Daily Times: The formal menswear attire department in CoesThe formal menswear attire department in Coes (Image: Charlotte Bond, Newsquest)

One thing that particularly stands out is how Coes manages to be a 21st century business with traditional values – with an emphasis on providing a top-notch, bespoke experience for everyone who walks through the door. Treating customers like family is certainly at the heart of this store.  

“We look after people,” Fiona explains. 

“You can still come in and have a one-to-one experience, which is quite rare nowadays. With us, it’s very much a case of listening to people and working with them to find out what they want – and I think people like that.” 

East Anglian Daily Times: Womenswear in CoesWomenswear in Coes (Image: Charlotte Bond, Newsquest)

Over the years, the Coes team have grown to know their customers on a personal level, and will even take time out of their day to phone customers and let them know when a new delivery has arrived if they feel it’s something that would suit them. “It’s a real personal service, and the secret to our success. 

“I don’t know how many weddings we fit a year, but we have to take appointments on Saturdays as it gets so busy. And it’s such a great privilege to be involved in the most special day of people’s lives. We follow people on their life journeys – often we fit people for their first prom suit, then their wedding suit, and then years later they’ll bring in their son to get his first suit.” 

Fiona and her trusted team can even craft a suit from scratch. “You can choose your buttons, lining, and even bring in your own fabric for linings. We do a lot of women’s made-to-measure now, too.” 

You can’t get more bespoke than that.  

East Anglian Daily Times: Fiona Coe with some of the suits in CoesFiona Coe with some of the suits in Coes (Image: Charlotte Bond, Newsquest)

In terms of giftware, Coes is a huge supporter of local businesses and makers – stocking regionally produced stock wherever it can. For instance, downstairs you will find an Adnams department which is updated regularly. 

“Over the years, around Christmas time, we invite local makers in on a Saturday and feature their products. We’re always looking to work with local companies, as Suffolk has so much produce to offer.” 

Coes understands how important in-person shopping is, but during lockdown expanded its online presence – and has seen exponential growth not just here but abroad.  

East Anglian Daily Times: The Adnams concession in CoesThe Adnams concession in Coes (Image: Charlotte Bond, Newsquest)

“We send stuff across the world now, and I think in today’s age you have to do it all. We haven’t sat back and thought 'we’re just a bricks and mortar retailer' – we've moved with the way retail has evolved and changed. We even have a Coes app now, so you don’t have to go on the website.” 

Its 100th anniversary is just a few years away – and the shop that shows no signs of slowing down will certainly be marking the occasion. “We will definitely be doing something big for such a milestone – watch this space.”