Bury bucks retail trend - but still no word on Debenhams

Bury Debenhams

The former Debenhams store in the Arc in Bury St Edmunds remains empty. - Credit: Paul Geater

Although shoppers have returned in numbers to Bury St Edmunds shopping centre since the Covid lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, there is still no word on when the town's largest store may find a new occupier.

The former Debenhams store in the Arc closed along with the rest of the chain in May last year and its landlord CBRE has been looking for a new tenant ever since.

Arc manager Steve Bunce could only say that the search for a new tenant was continuing.

However, it is a large unit that was designed in consultation with Debenhams as a feature of the Arc when it opened in 2009 - and it will not be easy to find a new tenant to take it on, or to split it into smaller units.

Our Bury St Edmunds chief executive Mark Cordell said the town had weathered the Covid crisis well in comparison with some other centres that had really struggled. 

He said: "For the last few months, apart from November when the Christmas Fair was cancelled, our footfall has been up on where it was in 2019/20 pre-Covid and I think things are continuing to go well.

"There are more shops planning to open and we could end up with all the units occupied apart from the big ones in the Arc before too long."

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As well as the former Debenhams building there was also a Top Shop/Top Man store in the Arc which has also been closed since the collapse of the Arcadia group.

But elsewhere in the town, Mr Cordell said there were signs that closed units would soon return to use.

The former Palmers store on the junction of Abbeygate Street  and the Buttermarket had been split into two units and there was considerable interest.

Suffolk Hotel

The former Suffolk Hotel in Bury St Edmunds could become a hotel again. - Credit: Paul Geater

And work was continuing on proposals to turn the former Suffolk Hotel, now the home of Waterstones and the closed Edinburgh Woollen Mill, back into a hotel - although there could still be retail on the ground floor facing the Buttermarket.

Mr Cordell added: "That is still subject to planning, but it is moving ahead and we're sure it will all be sorted eventually."