Pop up markets, prizes, free Prosecco and ‘we’ll even pay your parking ticket’ - how retailers are trying to persuade us to ditch the internet and come to their stores this Christmas

Shoppers learn about Debenhams free parking

Shoppers learn about Debenhams free parking - Credit: Archant

With retail in the doldrums, stores are going the extra mile to get shoppers through their doors this festive season.

The Loft, Ipswich. Picture: Cathy Frost

The Loft, Ipswich. Picture: Cathy Frost - Credit: Archant

Debenhams is launching a campaign to drive traffic to its high street stores by offering to pick up the cost of parking when shoppers buy items from its fashion, home, beauty and gifting ranges.

Until Sunday, the retailer, which has stores in Ipswich and Colchester, is offering to cover the cost of Ipswich shopper’s parking when spending £50.

Pledging to reimburse the cost of two hour’s parking, the move comes as part of the brand’s mission to make shopping sociable and fun, and looks to encourage shoppers to meet with friends and family to ‘mooch’ their high street store and sample its gifting, food and beauty offer.

Customers produce a photo or ticket at the till point as proof of parking for the cost of two hours parking to be deducted from goods purchased.

Baiss's trees. Picture: Cathy Frost

Baiss's trees. Picture: Cathy Frost - Credit: Archant

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The provision of free parking has been detailed by many commentators as a key lever to get shoppers back on their high streets.

Debenhams chief executive, Sergio Bucher says: “If we want to retain thriving high streets in our communities, retailers must keep working hard to entice shoppers over the threshold and make shopping in store more exciting. Debenhams will be getting shoppers into the festive mood with Christmas markets and other seasonal in store experiences, including 70 pop up food and drink offers.”

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The high street has faced immense pressure and unprecedented change over the past year, and studies have found that nine in ten would visit their high streets more if free parking was on offer, as the cost that car owners’ face on parking takes its toll.

Essex County Council is doing its bit to lure shoppers in to Colchester, by making the Colchester Park and Ride bus service free every Wednesday throughout December.

Celebrity Santa outside Fancy Dress Hut, Ipswich

Celebrity Santa outside Fancy Dress Hut, Ipswich - Credit: Archant

As the countdown to Christmas begins, visitors to Colchester town centre can travel for free on Wednesday 5, 12 and 19 December from 12pm to 9pm to take advantage of the late-night shopping festivities.

Other creative ways that retailers are enticing people through their doors in Ipswich

Creating a party atmosphere

The Loft, a beauty and blow dry ‘bar’ that’s recently opened on St Nicholas Street, is offering a free glass of Prosecco with any blowdry (£24). Or you can have a ‘nail party’ with friends and all get your nails done at the same time, while paying £4 per glass of Prosecco.

Prize giveaways

The Fancy Dress Hut on the thoroughfare in Ipswich has a Father Christmas positioned on a bench outside who resembles a certain celebrity. Anyone who guesses who that star is can win a sack full of stocking filler goodies.

‘Wow factor’ decorations

Baiss & Co on St Peter’s Street is ramping up the festive spirit with beautiful real Christmas trees hoisted onto the outside walls of their building. It took owner Simon Blowers and a friend five hours to put them up. “It almost killed us,” he said. I’ve been toying with the idea for the last 13 years and this year, I couldn’t resist it.”

Pop up Markets

St Peters Street traders came together last weekend to organise their Christmas market, which included a barbers, carol singing and even a dog creche. Cathy Frost, who runs Love One gift shop, says it’s about creating “the feel good factor”.

“It’s becoming more important that coming into town has to be about more than just shopping. I can’t compete with the likes of M&S and John Lewis, but what I can do is to create a destination with my neighbours where you can also pick up unusual items. It’s about creating a strong alternative to the ‘clinical necessity shopping’ that you get at retail parks.”

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