Bury St Edmunds: Benchmark report reveals shoppers spend £20 per visit - higher than UK average spend

Mark Cordell Chief Executive Officer of Bid4Bury at the top of St. Johns Street in Bury St Edmunds

Mark Cordell Chief Executive Officer of Bid4Bury at the top of St. Johns Street in Bury St Edmunds

BURY St Edmunds town centre is fighting back against the economic woes with a spike in business confidence, a surge in visitors and shoppers who spend more than the UK average.

A study, commissioned by town centre improvement organisation Bid4Bury, has found there is much to be positive about.

The review also highlighted the importance of independent shops to the town centre, as well as aspects like cleanliness and physical appearance, which were all rated higher than the national average.

The report was compiled by Action for Market Towns, a national organisation based in Bury, which helps small towns with information and advice on best practice to face the challenges from bigger cities or out of town shopping.

Chief Executive of Bid4Bury, Mark Cordell, who presented the findings to group members at the AGM last night said there was still no room for complacency.

He added: “I’m delighted that so many people took the trouble to complete the survey and that Action for Market Towns received such a positive response to their questioning, but of course there is still work to be done and this study also highlights some aspects that Bid4Bury will now take a closer look at.

“We have already done a lot of work on car parking charges but the findings suggest people want us to keep this at the top of the agenda.”

Most Read

The snapshot, which featured surveys with 190 people, revealed that 81% of town centre users felt that the ‘variety of shops’ were good or very good, 25% higher than the national large and small towns figures.

A total of 49% of respondents said they spent more than £20 on an average visit to the town centre, 17% higher than the national large town average, and 25% higher than the national small towns figure.

Nearly half of businesses that completed a survey reported that their ‘turnover’ had increased over the last 12 months, a 12% increase on 2012 and higher than the national large towns (28%), and national small towns (30%) figures. Similarly, 42% reported that ‘profitability’ had increased, 16% higher than 2012.

It is the second time the study has been carried out among businesses in the town and the 92-page report suggested improvements in many areas.

Mr Cordell said he was pleased to see that non-market days had become significantly busier since last year’s survey and that the number of non-locals had gone from 53% to 66%.

He added: “It’s very pleasing to see that people are choosing to visit Bury from further afield, suggesting that it is a shopping town of choice compared to others in our region. The study showed that more than 40% of respondents lived up to half an hour’s drive away, which is 20% higher than other large towns in Eastern England and also higher than last year for Bury St Edmunds.”

Mr Cordell said the success was due to marketing beyond the 20 mile radius of Bury.

But he added that said despite the Free from 3pm initiative every Tuesday, set up with St Edmundsbury Borough Council, many of the surveys returned were negative about parking.

“Parking is integral, it needs to be part of the offer,” he said.

Robert Everitt, cabinet member for communities and Bury St Edmunds, said the results showed that Bury is a “destination town”. He added: “It shows that strong partnership work between the council and Bid4Bury to make sure the town centre is an attractive, clean and safe environment, and promoting it through events such as the Christmas and Whitsun Fayres, really pays off and people appreciate the results.”