BID retail campaign ‘is paying dividends’

THE retail sector in Ipswich is overcoming the High Street gloom, with new figures showing the town to have significantly fewer empty shops than the national average.

Research commissioned by Ipswich Central, the company responsible for the town’s Business Improvement District (BID) project, in partnership with the borough council, has revealed a shop occupancy rate of 89%.

That puts the town 3% ahead of the national average, as measured in separate research by the Local Data Company (LDC).

Still more encouragingly, the occupancy rate in Ipswich is now 1% better than it was 12 months ago, in contrast with a dramatic decline nationally which has seen the figure fall by 10%.

Paul Clement, executive director of Ipswich Central, said: “We have funded an inward investment programme in Ipswich because historically there was a perception that there were too many vacant retail units in the town centre.

“We currently have many businesses saying that they want to take space in Ipswich. We are at a pleasing 89% occupancy rate now. No town benefits from being at 100% as it is then impossible to accommodate new retailers.

“The demand for retail space in Ipswich is in a very healthy place, and far better than it was several months ago as we now have an investment surveyor funded by us and the council to target new retailers.”

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The Buttermarket centre traded at 100% occupation over the Christmas and New Year period for the first time since it was opened in the 1980s, while the latest success for the town is the arrival of outdoor equipment retailer Cotswold, which moving into a remodelled unit within the Great White Horse.

Richard Atkins, portfolio holder for economic development at Ipswich Borough Council said: “We are the only BID area in the country which has jointly funded the post of inward investment surveyor, supported publicly through Ipswich Borough Council and privately through Ipswich Central.”

He added: “Our investment is paying rich dividends.”