Which towns in Suffolk and north Essex are worst hit by dramatic falls in consumer spending?

Grocery sales took a hit in the first week of lockdown, but then lifted significantly, figures show

Grocery sales took a hit in the first week of lockdown, but then lifted significantly, figures show Picture: JUPITER IMAGES - Credit: Getty Images/Pixland

Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds have seen stark declines in consumer spending during the coronavirus crisis – but grocery sales have rocketed, new figures reveal.

Non-grocery sales have taken a massive hit during the coronavirus lockdown, a study reveals Picture

Non-grocery sales have taken a massive hit during the coronavirus lockdown, a study reveals Picture: DAVID PARRY - Credit: PA

But number crunchers analysing debit card transaction data have found big variations between spending falls in different towns after lockdown began on March 23 – with some faring far worse than others.

In Suffolk, Bury St Edmunds appears to have been particularly badly hit, with overall consumer spending plummeting by 59% in the week of March 25 to 31 compared to the same week the previous year. Grocery sales fell by 3% and non-grocery sales by a massive 77%, putting it in 21st place overall for towns tracked in England and Wales, according to data from Tortoise.

MORE – BT’s Adastral Park ‘blown away’ by support as it sets up visor production line for frontline staff amid coronavirus crisisMeanwhile, in Ipswich, during the first week of lockdown, overall spending slumped by 52%, and 66% for non-grocery items. Grocery shopping fell by 2%.

In the second week, from April 1 to 7, spend picked up slightly in the two towns, with shopping down by 48% overall in Bury St Edmunds, which ranked 47th, and by 44% in Ipswich, which came in in 72nd place in terms of spending fall.

But by then, grocery sales had risen compared to last year – up by 11% and 15% respectively in the two towns. However, Bury saw a 71% drop in non-grocery sales, compared to a 61% fall in Ipswich.


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Lowestoft fared less badly, with a 40% fall in consumer spend in week 1 and a 58% fall in week 2. In the first week, grocery spend actually went up by 1%, and by 16% in the second week. Non-grocery shopping fell by 63% then 58%, putting the town in 149th then 151st place overall.

In Essex, Colchester’s figures were even starker. It ranked ninth then 10th overall in the first and second weeks for its very dramatic drops in consumer spend. In week 1, this fell by 62% and week 2 by 56% overall, with grocery spending plummeting by 11% in week 1, but lifting to plus 4% by week 2. Non-grocery spending fell by 78% then 74%.

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Clacton fared somewhat better, with a spending fall of 46% in the first week, then 37% in the second, ranking it 111th and 112th respectively. Grocery shopping dropped off slightly by 2% in the first week, but recovered to plus 13% by week 2. But non-grocery consumer spend was down by 71% then 65%.

The new data gathered suggests surprising variations in how different areas have fared.

Tortoise looked at real-time spending figures from millions of people, through data shared with it by Social Investment Business, a regeneration investment charity.

It ranked every town in England and Wales by the change they saw in spending.

Compilers found that pretty university towns and cities such as Oxford and Bath were particularly badly hit, along with small towns with a high dependence on tourists.

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