Your guide of where to shop local in Suffolk and north Essex this weekend
- Credit: Archant
As the Christmas shopping season gets into full swing, it’s more important than ever to support our local traders.
Today, with Small Business Saturday taking place tomorrow, we shine the spotlight on our independent shops
It is important to have as many independent shops as possible to help a town thrive, according to Aldeburgh Business Association.
ABA chairman Sally Ogden said while national chains were important, the mix and blend of big names and small businesses was vital to ensure people visited a town to shop.
She said: “I think it’s important to have as many independent shops as possible because they contribute such a lot to the town.
“The independents are the soul of the town with the services and products they provide. We are very lucky at the moment that we have very few empty shops in Aldeburgh, if any, and we are keen to do all we can to help publicise our traders and encourage people to shop local.
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“Our focus in the next year is to publicise the town more as a daytripper destination – people travelling for perhaps 45 minutes to get here.
“We do very well with holidaymakers but we feel we can attract more daytrippers and while they will obviously enjoy the beach and our other attractions, we want them to explore the High Street, too, and shop, or eat or have a coffee.”
Aldeburgh’s Christmas lights are already on and traders hope people will visit to shop and soak up the festive atmosphere.
Bury St Edmunds
Bury St Edmunds is well known for its fantastic range of independent shops and businesses.
The town is home to a medley of wonderful small businesses and is also the destination picked by many top national stores for their Suffolk branch.
From Joules and Smiggle to Hotel Chocolat and Hobbs, top stores are choosing Bury because they see it as a top shopping destination.
These big brands sit side-by-side with vibrant independent small businesses that have built up a loyal following.
The town’s Business Improvement District Ourburystedmunds said: “With hundreds of additional weekend free parking spaces available in December (search on Twitter using #buryparking) then why buy online when you can enjoy a day out visiting these independent gems on Small Business Saturday?
“Whether you’re looking for a special gift, a one-off outfit, or you appreciate someone giving the highest level of customer service because their family name’s at stake if they don’t, then Bury St Edmunds has it all.
“Bury has almost double the number of independent businesses than the national average.
“Many will be familiar with those in St Johns Street, but that’s not the only part of town to discover one-off boutiques, delis and cafes, in fact almost anything you would expect to buy in ‘big name’ stores can also be found in Bury at an independent shop or a stall on the Saturday and Wednesday markets. Also visit Risbygate Street, Churchgate Street or Langton Place.
To help plan a Shop Local trip, pick up an Ourburystedmunds map available at the Apex or download the Ourburystedmunds app and receive details of the special December offers it’s promoting.
For more information, visit ourburystedmunds
Free park and ride is being offered in Colchester for this year’s Small Business Saturday in a bid to entice more shoppers to the town.
Essex County Council has dropped charges in recognition of the national initiative.
Michelle Reynolds, chairwoman of the Colchester Retail/Business Association (CORBA) welcomed the move – and encouraged people to support their local independent stores.
Ms Reynolds said: “Hopefully more people will take advantage of the park and ride deal and come in to see us.
“It really is important to keep small businesses alive, and we are hoping we are going to see lots of people tomorrow.
“There are a number of shops participating around the town.
“Small businesses have expert knowledge of their products, give great customer service and really know how to look after our customers.
“People may also be surprised to find small businesses can often be cheaper than the internet too, and we can provide expert advice.
“In an ideal world people will experience their great independents and continue to come back and use us.
“It is challenging being an independent, we do need all the help we can get.”
As well as Small Business Saturday, late-night shopping takes place on Wednesday evenings throughout December.
Debenham’s quaint village charms and thriving businesses make it a great place to “shop local” this Christmas.
Dina Bedwell, Debeham Parish Council’s clerk, said that behind the village’s beautiful tranquillity also lay a “hub of industry and commerce that keeps flourishing.
From lovely little shops that sell things you wouldn’t find anywhere else, to those that meet your regular needs, such as a Co-op and Post Office, public houses, florists, estate agents, hardware stores and even a gallery where crafts such as jewellery, pottery, photography and fabric making are available,” she added.
“And there are also those who you probably wouldn’t find straight away on the High Street but are there for the rescue when you have any plumbing, electrical, metal works, garden maintenance and other needs.
“We start the festive season as we mean to go on, which will include an afternoon of sheer shopping bliss on Saturday 3rd December, from 1pm to 5pm on the High Street. There will be a brass band, a hamper raffle, children’s activities, stalls galore and of course, Father Christmas Grotto with the special man himself to meet all your little ones. And the magic moment will come at 5.15pm when the lights are switched on. A huge thank you to the organisers and to the Debenham Parish Council for providing the two lovely Christmas trees. We look forward to seeing you there supporting our businesses.”
Eye’s festive celebrations get underway tonight when businesses will be open late, encouraging people to “shop local”.
Carnival games and pantomime will also be part of the fun at the Eye Christmas Lights switch-on.
Taking place in the town centre from 5pm-8pm, with the switch-on at 6pm, there will also be a hog roast, Santa’s Grotto, 1940s singers, a vintage fire engine and Christmas bazaar. Christmas ales and other refreshments will be on offer, as well as children’s activities.
Eye mayor Colin Ribchester, who used to run a business in the town, said late night shopping was a “great chance to talk to customers and encourage them to return”.
“It’s the best time to promote yourself,” he added.
Mr Ribchester said the town did its best to encourage people to shop local, particularly by catering for the older demographic, some of whom struggle to travel further afield for their shopping.
The town has produced a business directory so people know what goods and services are available and where.
Mr Ribchester said he would personally be visiting homes in the town in the New Year, encouraging them to shop local.
Independent shops – mixed in with national chain stores – gives Felixstowe the right blend to attract people to do their Christmas gift shopping at the resort.
Small businesses, from boutiques to jewellers, salons to food shops, in the town are flourishing with many well established in the main shopping street Hamilton Road.
Several new ones have opened, too, in the past couple of years in what some people now regard at the resort’s “Vintage Quarter” in Orwell Road, with five antique and vintage shops mixing with other upmarket independents, giving it a unique atmosphere.
The town has also recently been named as one of the up and coming shopping centres in the UK – one of the top five of the “rising star” category in the Great British High Street awards.
As well as promoting Small Business Saturday, the town has a number of other initiatives to attract shoppers this Christmas, including more than 45 retailers opening until 7pm tonight and all Fridays up to the big day with special seasonal activities, entertainment, children’s quiz trail and displays.
Deputy mayor Nick Barber said: “We are thrilled that so many of our town centre retailers have come on board and are supporting this fabulous new initiative for the town.”
Framlingham’s vibrant and diverse business community is hoping to encourage people to shop local this festive period.
Traders in the town have united to offer late night shopping for customers tonight when it is hoped a choir will sing carols under the Christmas tree in Market Hill and business will offer festive treats.
This year’s Framlingham Christmas Tree Festival starts on Saturday, December 3, when St Michael’s Church will be filled with trees decorated along the theme of “Christmas Carols”. Lights will be switched on at 10am after which there will be stalls, refreshments and a choral performance.
The Framlingham Business Association (FBA) regularly hosts events to attract visitors to the town and support its diverse range of independent shops.
The ever-popular Saturday markets on December 10 and 17 will be accompanied with musical performances from the Castleton Brass Band to help stir up the Christmas spirit. And the FBA is also organising a Christmas window competition to encourage businesses to make the most of the festive season.
FBA member Jenny Stockman said with such variety of businesses in the town it was possible to “shop local” for every Christmas need.
“With shops selling gifts, toys, stationary, pet supplies, ladies and men’s clothes, shoes, hardware, cookware, jewellery, DIY, homewares, and more, together with independent bakers, delicatessen and a butchers, it really is possible to wrap up Christmas without leaving town,” she added.
“Events during the year such as heritage open days, Framlingham Gala and The Great Framlingham Sausage Festival introduces many new visitors to the town who we know do come back for repeated visits to shop and enjoy the hospitality.”
With its picturesque backdrop and pedestrianised main shopping avenue, Halesworth is an attractive prospect for those wishing to shop local this Christmas.
Independent firms providing all kinds of goods are at the heart of the town’s shopping experience, from the winding Thoroughfare to the hub of the Market Place.
Among those hailed by shoppers are Halesworth Stationers, Foxs Cards, Allen’s Butchers and Valerie’s Consignment Store, with friendly, knowledgeable staff providing the kind of personable service that all too often gets left behind.
David Cask, acting chairman of Halesworth Business Connections said his own shopping experiences in the town proved why it was popular with customers.
“I think it answers it’s own question,” he said. “Apart from one or two businesses that are not there most of the small shops do cater for everybody’s needs.
“As far as my experience goes if there’s something you need they will find it for you.”
The Christmas season is crucial to all town centre businesses – and the independents in Ipswich’s St Peter’s Street and St Nicholas Street are hoping for a bumper month.
For the first time in generations all the retail, food, and leisure units along the two streets are occupied – and as the crucial link between the historic town centre and the Waterfront business owners are ready for a busy period.
Cathy Frost from LoveOne gift shop said the mix of shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars in the area was crucial to its success – and she’s hoping to be rushed off her feet over the next four weeks.
She said: “It isn’t just about the shops anymore. People can shop 24/7 online. It’s about the experience of having a day out in the town – that is where a historic centre like Ipswich can score.
“People can come in and have a coffee here (Applaud Cafe is next to her shop) and then look in the shops which have something very individual to offer.”
Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday when shops like LoveOne will be hoping to attract shoppers who might normally concentrate on the large multiples for their business.
Mrs Frost said: “We’ve had Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Now it’s our turn to bring in the shoppers!”
Leiston is hoping for a huge influx of people to discover the town’s shops on Small Business Saturday and take part in its biggest yet Christmas celebrations.
There will be fun throughout the town with the Long Shop Museum hosting a Christmas Fair from noon to 5pm, a late-night town shopping event from 4pm to 7pm, and the tree and lights being switched on at 5.30pm.
The fun begins at 11.45am with a parade led by the Never Ready Band with Father Christmas setting off from Sizewell Road car park to the museum.
Santa will then be in his grotto for the afternoon, and other attractions will include hand bells played by Leiston Guides, rides on the shunting engine Sirapite, children’s games and lantern making, refreshments, and a fairground at Old Post Office Square.
Late afternoon attention will switch to the High Street for live music, carol singing and more, sponsored by Leiston Town Council.
A spokeswoman for the Leiston and District Community Partnership said: “Shops and businesses in the High Street will be staying open late and extend a warm invitation to all those attending the event to pop in and enjoy a Christmas drink and festive nibble.
“Stallholders will also line the main street representing various local organisations.”
The ‘home of horseracing’ has more to offer than just a day at the races, with a range of independent shops on offer across their high street.
With the formation of the town’s own Business Improvement District (BID) earlier this year and a trial free parking scheme launching this Christmas, the town is hoping to capitalise on the festive shopping season.
Graham Philpot, the new-in-post Love Newmarket BID manager, said the town had the perfect combination of independent shops and cheap parking.
“We have a good variety of independent shops, restaurants and cafes,” he said. “It is probably one of the strongest on offer in East Anglia.
“We don’t have a ‘clone high street’, there is something here for everyone. It is one of these places where you really get the personal touch. The businesses get to know their customers and give a great customer service.”
Starting yesterday and for every Thursday until Christmas, shoppers and visitors to Newmarket will be able to park for free from 1pm. The new Forest Heath District Council ‘fun from one’ initiative is part of a trial scheme.
Di Robertshaw, chairman of the Newmarket Retailers Association, said: “We are pleased that Forest Heath is able to show its support to local businesses during the run up to Christmas. Now we need people living in the local area to make ‘fun from one’ a success by supporting the local retailers of Newmarket.”
Small businesses in Saxmundham are hoping the attraction of the town’s Christmas lights switch-on will encourage people to “shop local” tomorrow.
Businesses of Saxmundham (BoS) said local shops were vital to the market town’s economy – providing quality goods and services at affordable prices, saving people the cost of travelling elsewhere, with traders able to respond quickly to the needs of customers as well as supporting the community.
BoS said: “No one wants to live in a clone town, retaining the character and individuality of Saxmundham is important and encouraging and supporting independent shops and business can really help maintain its unique character.
“A thriving business economy around Saxmundham creates local employment, and these people in turn spend in the local economy. Evidence shows that for every £10 spent in an independent shop £25 is generated for the local economy compared to £14 spent in multinationals.”
Last year saw the biggest crowds for years to see the town’s new Christmas lights and traders are hoping for the same on Saturday.
There will be festive stalls in the Market Hall and Fromus Square, a Christmas Tree Festival at St John the Baptist Church with carols at 3pm before the lantern procession leaves the church at 3.45pm for the lights switch-on at 4.15pm, followed by mulled wine and hot refreshments.
Southwold businesses say their vibrant independent shopping scene is a great attraction for people over Christmas.
Daniel Smith, store manager at Collen & Clare fashion boutique, said: “It’s all about offering the best possible service that we can, which helps set us apart from some of the larger chains.
“We are very lucky here in Southwold because we have a real mix of different independent stores.
“You can buy clothes for ladies and men’s fashion but also arts shops and gift shops – even the newsagent has some really amazing Christmas decorations and beautiful cards.”
Mr Smith, who is also a member of My Southwold, the town’s business association, said that although no specific events had been planned to mark Small Business Saturday, everyone in the town was already making an effort to impress shoppers.
“All the shops have tried to offer a really broad range of products and they’ve all made their windows look really beautiful,” he added.
“Everything has been ramped up to go the extra mile for Christmas.”
Southwold has already held its Christmas switch-on event but Mr Smith said there may be other festive celebrations held later in the month.
The rural market town of Stowmarket is full of local shops keen to provide the perfect venue for Christmas shopping.
There are barely any vacant units, according to the town’s mayor Barry Humphreys, who urged people to visit the town.
“We’ve got a welcoming town that’s full of local retailers that are a keen to put their things across to local people,” he said.
“Without that footfall and interest businesses will fail to survive. It’s all about supporting the local businesses as well as the national businesses we have in Stowmarket. I think the retail offer in Stowmarket satisfies most needs. You can shop in Stowmarket without having to go any further.”
Shoppers this year can take advantage of free wi-fi now on offer in the town centre, which was introduced this year.
Mr Humphreys said shoppers should shun larger malls and towns and come to sample what Stowmarket had to offer.
“It’s a traditional rural market town. Come and experience it and see what we’ve got to offer before you venture out to larger towns and shopping malls,” he said.
“I don’t think we’ve got any vacant shops at the moment which says a lot about the confidence of the town.”
The market town of Sudbury offers shoppers a chance to complete their Christmas shopping and enjoy a day out as well.
“We’ve got a great range of shops and three hours free parking,” said Chris Storey from the town’s chamber of commerce.
More than a year ago the town was rocked by a large fire in Friars Street that forced a lot of shops to close temporarily but those days seem now long gone with most reopened all over town.
Health Foods For You, by way of example, reopened in North Street this May, and other shops are either in new homes or back in their old building.
Mr Storey added: “There are a range of small jewellers that offer nice, attractive options. I think Winch and Blatch has got a great range of products throughout the store. You’ve got a big department store there – just walk around and get ideas.
“We’ve also got nice cafes and people can have a cup of tea or coffee and enjoy the town as well.”
The changing way of shopping, with the rise of the internet, meant high street shopping had to offer something more, said Mr Storey.
“Shopping is an experience. You’ve got to come out and do your shopping and other things and enjoy the town. That’s what Sudbury has – come and find a few ideas.”
Woodbridge traders are being encouraged to take part in Small Business Saturday by offering “Christmas gifts to suit everyone”.
Choose Woodbrige, the town’s business association, said it was an opportunity to help independent businesses by “bringing the shoppers in and keeping them coming back”.
Business in the town are expected to “take part and remind shoppers of why it’s so great to buy in Woodbridge, not only during the festive season but all year round.”
Throughout the day, small businesses will have the chance to set up stalls in the town to sell their Christmas products.
A spokesman for Choose Woodbridge said: “Woodbridge is proud to have a large community of small businesses who work to promote the town and Suffolk. Choose Woodbridge wants all kinds of small businesses getting involved, family businesses, local shops, online businesses, wholesalers, business services or small manufacturers and we want to encourage shoppers to show their support by shopping local on Small Business Saturday.”
Woodbridge is hosting a variety of seasonal events to attract visitors to the town. Last night saw it kick-start celebrations with a switch-on ceremony and festive events continue on Sunday with a “Mammoth Christmas Street Fair “ from 10am-4pm.
Another big Christmas event is the Rotary Club of Woodbridge’s annual carol service on Market Hill.