Customers pour in for Arc's opening

THE manager behind Suffolk's newest shopping centre has hailed its opening weekend with retailers reporting “phenomenal sales”.

THE manager behind Suffolk's newest shopping centre has hailed its opening weekend with retailers reporting “phenomenal sales”.

The �100million Arc shopping development in Bury St Edmunds enjoyed a successful weekend - continuing the hopes that the retail outlet and the 300 new jobs created would provide a welcome fillip to the west Suffolk economy.

Paul Haynes, the centre manager of the Arc, compared the opening weekend to London's Oxford Street during sale time and admitted expectations had been surpassed.

Mr Haynes, who had earlier described the centre as the “crown jewel” of the town, said: “The first weekend at Arc has been incredibly successful with retailers surpassing targets and reporting phenomenal sales.

“We have welcomed literally thousands of shoppers, many of whom have approached me to voice their enthusiasm for Arc.

“I have not seen March days like this in all my years working in town and shopping centre management. It has been reminiscent of Oxford Street during sale time, which is great news both for individual retailers and for the wider Bury St Edmunds economy.”

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And Mr Haynes played down any fears that the new multi-million pound shopping development, on the site of the town's former Cattle Market, would drive people out of the town centre, famed for its independent shops.

He said: “On Saturday I visited Bury St Edmunds' market: I was delighted to observe similarly high numbers of shoppers enjoying the whole town centre offer, giving me a strong sense that the arrival of Arc will indeed benefit the whole town, both now and in the future.”

On Thursday, community leaders, dignitaries and eager shoppers flocked to the centre to get their first full glimpse of a new retail age in the historic town.

Before cutting the ribbon to officially open the development, Bob Cockle, mayor of St Edmundsbury, made reference to the difficult economic times but spoke of his optimism that the Arc would provide exciting times for the town.

The only planned new shopping centre in England this year, it boasts a range of High Street brands including the flagship Debenhams store.

As well as more shops due to open in the next few weeks, the Arc also consists of an 850-space underground and upgraded surface car park and more than 60 new homes.