Town centre seeks stores investment

A PROPERTY specialist has been brought in to encourage more retailers to come to Ipswich town centre.

Ipswich Central, the town centre Business Improvement District company, has joined forces with Ipswich Borough Council to create a new post dedicated to attracting inward investment.

Over the past few months, the two organisations have been working on a number of joint projects, including a Vision for Ipswich which overarches a Town Centre Masterplan.

The two initiatives highlighted the need to formalise a town centre inward investment strategy, they say.

Local property consultant Richard Turner has now been contracted to perform this role. His job will be to attract new companies to Ipswich town centre, and improve the town’s retail offer by appealing to new retailers and those currently not in the town.

In 2010 CACI, an international data analysis company whose national Retail Footprint reports on consumer shopping behaviour in more than 4,000 UK retail centres, classified Ipswich as being in the top 50, a view which Ipswich Central says is borne out by recent new high end retailers opening in Ipswich, including an iStore, White Stuff, Viyella and Country Casuals.

Mr Turner’s brief will be to retain the momentum while identifying any shop units which are vacant or about to become so. He will also be involved in identifying gaps in the retail offer, creating a rapport with key retailers to understand why they are currently not trading in Ipswich and liaising with retail head offices in order to persuade them to come to Ipswich.

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Mr Turner said: “This is an exciting and challenging proposition and a natural extension of my property consultancy which has given me access to national retailers at head office level.

“However, it’s worth adding a note of caution – this initiative will not automatically cause retailers to come flocking, but what it will do is help us gather combined intelligence about the retail and commercial space available or soon to become available by working closely with all of the town’s property agents. My work will enable Ipswich Central and the council to create a strategy targeting the retailers who would add most to the town centre offer and create the opportunity for real dialogue with the right people in the right places. What I do believe is that it gives Ipswich the chance to fully promote itself based on the reality of the current economic backdrop, the demographics and its geographic location.”

William Coe, chairman of Ipswich Central, said: “We are delighted to be able to fund this post in partnership with Ipswich Borough Council. This role was not included in our original business plan but we have reacted to the challenging economic climate and the demands of our stakeholders on the high street to ensure that Ipswich will have every opportunity to win new investment and improve our retail offer.”

Richard Atkins, portfolio holder for planning and economic development at Ipswich Borough Council, added: “We’ve recently seen new shops opening in Ipswich, so the borough council is delighted to continue its partnership working with Ipswich Central on this key appointment, to accelerate the pace.

“We’re already below the national average for vacant shops, and with this initiative, we expect Ipswich to improve even further.”