WATCH: Long queues as shoppers rush to buy for Christmas - but town centre boss warns of “devastation”
Shoppers have been pouring into Suffolk’s town centres today, with limited time before shops close for the second Covid-19 lockdown.
Our video shows shoppers hurrying to stores in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds today, in scenes more like a typical Saturday than a weekday.
However, Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement warned: “Anything that can happen between now and Wednesday evening can’t even begin to compensate for the complete devastation that the lockdown will bring for businesses.”
With just three days to go before non-essential shops close down again, many people are eager to buy items such as clothing and Christmas gifts while they can.
In Ipswich, a long queue had already formed before 9.30am outside Primark, which has also been very busy over the weekend.
MORE: Queues at Aldi, Primark and Smyths as second lockdown loomsThe hugely popular chain does not have an online presence, so customers will not be able to buy its fashions when non-essential retail closes for four weeks from Thursday.
Yesterday, customers queued along the road outside Smyths toy store at Anglia Retail Park in Ipswich and some eager shoppers were already snapping up their Christmas turkeys in Aldi.
In regard to the the high footfall in Ipswich town centre, Mr Clement said: “We don’t think it’s surprising that more people than usual are in the town centre - it’s nothing to be celebrated.
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“The lockdown will be devastating for business, after retail businesses in Ipswich had done incredibly well in keeping their premises safe.”
Mr Clement said it was imperative that, when lockdown finished, Ipswich came back out into Tier 1.
He called for businesses to have more support, saying it was even more vital now than the first time, because businesses had already suffered months of lockdown and restrictions.
“Only furlough has been announced so far, and while we welcome that, grants and loans are also needed, to assist businesses who are already on their knees.”
Shops in Bury St Edmunds were today also busy, with many people taking the opportunity to buy festive cards and gifts, while there were also queues outside banks in the town.
Mark Cordell, chief executive of the Bury St Edmunds’ Business Improvement District (BID), said: “It’s very frustrating that we are going into lockdown, but great to see so many people out supporting their local businesses today, and hopefully the same tomorrow and Wednesday.
“Obviously we would hope and expect everybody to stick to all of of the the Covid-19 requirements.”
Mr Cordell said tomorrow was likely to be particularly busy because of the “Free from 3” offer on Tuesdays in short-stay car parks in Bury.
He added: “Hopefully this momentum will continue into lockdown, with local people supporting businesses through deliveries and takeaways and ordering from them online.”
Mr Cordell also urged people to take up the Bury St Edmunds gift card which is being launched in the run-up to the festive season.