Late spending spree helps shops

SHOPPERS have given under-pressure Suffolk retailers a welcome boost with a late festive spending spree.

Richard Smith

SHOPPERS have given under-pressure Suffolk retailers a welcome boost with a late festive spending spree.

Many independent stores say that, despite a difficult December, the last few days of trading have proved to be one of the busiest periods of the year.

With many offering unprecedented early sales offers, bargain-hunters have provided some relief amid a difficult period for retailers.


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British Retail Consortium spokesman Richard Dodd said: “It's clear that customers have turned out in big numbers, particularly since the weekend.

“I think some retailers will be daring to breathe a sigh of relief because it's clear that customers have left their spending very late rather than cancelled it entirely. But it won't be until we see the final figures that we know what people are actually spending.”

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In Ipswich hundreds of Christmas shoppers flooded Tower Ramparts yesterday to take advantage of early sales and discounts.

Mike Sorhaindo, centre manager, said: “We have certainly seen a surge in visits in the last two days as last minute shoppers are taking advantage of early sales, it has been bringing people in their droves.

“A lot of retailers have been offering discounts much earlier to entice shoppers into the stores, in light of the economic climate it has been needed to capture peoples spending.”

At Coes in Ipswich yesterday staff were inundated with customers to help with their last minute shopping.

A spokesperson said: “We have been very busy today; we are rushed off our feet.”

The Suffolk Food Hall, which has been trading for 18 months in Wherstead, near Ipswich, had a record day on Saturday when nearly 1,100 customers poured through the doors.

Oliver Paul, a director, said: ''We have seen a steady build up to Christmas. Our turkey orders are on par with last year and we are selling twice as much beef as before.”

Alder Carr Farm Shop, near Needham Market, had a Farmers' Market on Saturday and shop manager, Justin Hurn, said: “It was absolutely manic there, we were very busy with people buying the usual Christmas fare.

“December has been quite a good month for us considering the economic situation and personally I think that at Christmas people will always have a good family get together with good food and drink.”

Independent traders in west Suffolk admitted it had been a challenging run-up to Christmas but spoke of their optimism for the future with traditional post-Christmas sales organised.

Judith Blatch, merchandise director for renowned department store Winch and Blatch in Sudbury, said: “We have had a mixed Christmas so far. You would be a fool to say it has been as good as last year as it hasn't. But we are lucky that Sudbury can hold its own as a pleasant market town and as a leading independent retailer, we can react more quickly to changes in the market than if we had a head office in London.

“We start our post-Christmas sale on December 28 and we still think some people are waiting for the more traditional sales which still offer genuine quality and good customer service.”

In Bury St Edmunds, tough trading conditions have also been reported. Tony Williams, managing director of independent DIY and garden centre Marlows, said: “I would say that we have done as well as we expected. We knew it was going to be a tough time but it has turned out alright. I remain very optimistic about the business and the New Year will certainly be interesting.”

Meanwhile, figures released yesterday by Synovate Retail Performance revealed the number of shoppers across the UK from December 14 to 20 was up by 12.3% on the previous week but down by 10.7% on the same week last year.

Synovate spokesman Dr Tim Denison said: “Shopping activity since Friday has certainly improved and should be considered as respectable in the context of current conditions, but the quiet start to last week represents lost ground that will not be recovered.

“The vast majority of retailers, despite offering some limited, selected stock at savagely discounted prices, have kept most discounts to a very sensible level. This has created something of a discount stand-off between shoppers and retailers with many shoppers expecting better bargains than they've actually realised on the goods they really want.”

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