Poll: What makes Bury St Edmunds such an attractive shopping destination?

Bury is thriving as a shopping location. Bury Market.

Bury is thriving as a shopping location. Bury Market. - Credit: Archant

A bigger and better market, a fine selection of retailers, innovative free parking schemes and a rich variety of entertainment and attractions.

The Arc shopping centre.

The Arc shopping centre. - Credit: Archant

These were just some of the reasons given yesterday for why Bury St Edmunds is continuing to buck the national trend and attract more and more shoppers to its bustling high street.

Town centre chiefs are full of praise for the way the centre has evolved – and latest figures paint an incredibly rosy picture.

Research commissioned by the Business Improvement District (BID) Ourburystedmunds shows footfall increased by 5% in September compared to the same month last year.

Nationally it has dropped by just over half a percentage point and in the Eastern region it is down by 1%.

The numbers are also looking positive for the year-to-date, which sees Bury with 3.1% more footfall than the first nine months of 2013. In the UK and the region it is still marginally in decline.

Mark Cordell, Ourburystedmunds chief executive, said: “This is really good news for Bury St Edmunds. It shows that the town is thriving and is attractive to visitors.

Linda MacGillivray

Linda MacGillivray - Credit: Archant

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“It’s also very interesting to note that a lot more people are coming into town on a Tuesday and I’m sure that the Free from Three parking initiative, which the BID campaigned hard for and worked closely with the borough council to implement has played a part in that success.”

The footfall figures are calculated based on an entry point to the town in Abbeygate Street. The busiest time for people to be visiting the town is at 2pm on a Saturday.

Mayor of St Edmundsbury, Robert Everitt, said: “It’s definitely a destination for people to come to, not just for the shops but all the other things we have to offer. On a beautiful day like today, the Abbey Gardens, I’m sure will be full of people eating their sandwiches and enjoying cups of coffee.”

He added the market is bigger and better, there are attractions such as the Apex, the Theatre Royal and Moyse’s Hall Museum, independent shops and there is good-quality car parking.

“It’s about generally there’s a successful feel to the town now which has been developed over the last five to six years,” he said. “But we mustn’t be complacent. It could be very easy to lose that good feeling.”

Mr Cordell added: “While it is pleasing to see that Bury is doing so well compared to the rest of the region and the country, we know that we have to work hard to make our offering attractive, which is why the BID is always looking at any improvements that can be made.

Jessica Hanlon

Jessica Hanlon - Credit: Archant

“We have invested significantly in marketing the town with the Ourburystedmunds website and app and we know that a town that looks good will attract people, so we’ve worked with Bury in Bloom to provide floral decoration and with the council to provide additional litter bins.”

The directors from the BID will be launching their business plan for the next five years to members at a networking event on October 28.

Reporter Mariam Ghaemi asked people in Bury St Edmunds what attracts them to the town and what makes it so special?

Linda MacGillivray, who is in her 60s and is from Scotland, said Bury was just a “lovely town” with a good sense of community.

“There’s good shopping, you don’t have to walk too far to go to any shop. It’s just a lovely place and you have got the Abbey Gardens.”

George Bayliss.

George Bayliss. - Credit: Archant

Ms MacGillivray, who was in Bury to visit her grand-daughter, added: “I love it down here.”

Jessica Hanlon, 28, of St John’s Street, Bury, said: “On St John’s Street there’s a lot of independents and I like to be able to come to the market and not forced to go into the supermarkets.”

She believed Bury was so popular because of the “nice historic feel”. “I think it looks nice. I know when my family come [from Manchester] they love it. They think it’s beautiful, and all of this is on my doorstep; I do feel a bit spoiled.”

Former boxer George Bayliss, 74, of Cullum Road, Bury, has lived in the town for more than 50 years after moving down from Liverpool.

“I just love it. I would never go back there,” he said.

He believes the way of life and history makes the town so special, but he is not a fan of the Arc shopping centre.

“I don’t think the Arc has done anything special for the town. I much prefer the old Bury St Edmunds - that’s why I stayed here.”