Fall in the number of people shopping in Bury St Edmunds

Shoppers in Bury St Edmunds town centre. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Shoppers in Bury St Edmunds town centre. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Has the bubble burst for shoppers in Bury St Edmunds?

The Saturday market on the Cornhill and Buttermarket in Bury St Edmunds

The Saturday market on the Cornhill and Buttermarket in Bury St Edmunds PICTURE ANDY ABBOTT - Credit: Archant

That was the question that was being asked after the number of Christmas shoppers visiting the town centre in December fell for the first time in four years.

Figures released by Ourburystedmunds, the business improvement district (BID) for the town, revealed a drop in the number of people visiting the town during the year and was particularly disappointing for December.

The total number of shoppers for the year was 0.3% less than in 2016, but last month the number of people who visited dropped by 6% - similar to 2013 and 2014 levels.

The bleak decline was brightened, however, during the week commencing December 18, which proved to be the busiest single week for the month since figures began.

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Mark Cordell, the chief executive of Ourburystedmunds, said it was a “wake up call” for the town.

“Yes, the footfall levels are down and it would have been great to have had a fifth year of growth but it’s important that we now work with our businesses as it’s a difficult time for them and a challenging one for us,” he said.

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He pointed out the closure of the Palmers store, in the Buttermarket, along with Greenwood’s in St John’s Street closing, and Argos moving out of the town centre to the Sainsbury’s store in Bedingfield Way, was not helping and the early signs of people shopping in the town during the first two weeks of January was also down.

“We should not think that Bury is immune and we will be looking at options to help our traders,” he said. “It would be naive to think that it’s just one of those things but I am confident that we can address it. There’s lots of reasons but it’s not all doom and gloom. It’s a bit of a wake up call and we need to address that as we still have a good trading position.

“We can still make Bury a top retail attraction for the area and we will monitor things closely and come up with some answers.

“We still think that having events in the town is a way of addressing the issue and we will continue to do that and help us to get back up again ... we just need to find a good reason for people to come into the town and we will be looking to take a variety of steps to try and encourage more people to visit our lovely town.

“I am delighted that basically the same number of people visited us this year as last year which is more than in the previously recorded years.

“Our footfall camera measures pedestrian activity in Abbeygate Street. Footfall is also measured in the Arc and although there is a slight drop last month its considerably less than 6%.

“Interesting though, the week commencing December 18 was the busiest single week in December since we commenced recording so it looks like people left their Christmas shopping to the last minute.”

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