Ipswich Central: Paul Clement tells the epic tale of a hall table

Paul Clement of Ipswich Central

Paul Clement of Ipswich Central - Credit: Archant

AN insight into the blurring of high street and online purchasing by PAUL CLEMENT, chief executive of Business Improvement District delivery company Ipswich Central.

AS I sit writing the first of these new town centre columns for the East Anglian Daily Times, it seems like the most appropriate time for me to make a confession.

My natural commitment is to the central area of Ipswich and to the businesses and retailers that trade there. Yet, I have recently ventured beyond it.

Yes, I too chose internet shopping. It was only a small table and purchased for nothing more than to fill a gap in our hall that was crying out for something. I am sure that I could have bought it in town. But, it was late at night and, well, the internet was still open! So, I pressed “buy” on some out-of-area retailer’s site and went to bed. No one will ever know, I remember thinking, but I feel so much better now that I have told you!

In fact, now that I have confessed to this moment of disloyalty and told you half of the story, I should probably tell you the rest too.

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Our table was due to be dispatched the very next day. If the depot is close to Ipswich, I thought, the gap in the hall could be filled by next bedtime. Several days later, however, the gap remained and there was no news of the table. Had I mistyped our address, with someone else now in possession of my ready-to-build hall furniture?

Our delivery details checked, so there was no choice but to phone the offending retailer. After hanging on in a musically accompanied queue for 20 minutes, with regular reminders to hold on as my call was important, I got through to Wayne in customer service. Wayne had never before had something like this happen, but offered to look into it as a matter of utmost urgency. He never did call back.

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But eventually came confirmation – the table was lost in transit and a duplicate would be sent. Another few days went by and, just as we were about to go away for a few days’ holiday, we reminded ourselves that we must chase them again on our return.

Fortunately, the table did arrive … whilst we were away! The driver put a note through our letterbox inviting us to call him within five days to arrange delivery and warned that, if we did not, the item would be returned to base. By the time we returned from holiday our table was safely back in the warehouse.

So, as I sit here writing this, occasionally staring back towards the gap in my hall, you may expect my message to be “avoid the internet and buy only in your town centre”.

Not so – even I am not that stupid! My table woes only demonstrate that internet shopping is not always quicker, easier or cheaper.

However, town centres need to embrace rather than fight cyberspace and make it work to promote their offer and to make visits even more compelling. Over the past 12 months we have invested in the new allaboutipswich.com website, with associated VIP loyalty offers and, most recently, the town’s new app.

Take a look, and stay connected as we roll out new elements including a “shop and collect” facility later this year.

Towns linking “space with place” will be amongst those that emerge stronger after this recession. We are committed that Ipswich will be amongst them.

In the meantime, writing this has reminded me; I must call Wayne …

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