Region's busy shops buck trend

RETAILERS in Suffolk and Essex appear to have bucked the trend this festive season despite countrywide fears it would be one of the worst Christmas periods the high street had ever seen.

RETAILERS in Suffolk and Essex appear to have bucked the trend this festive season despite countrywide fears it would be one of the worst Christmas periods the high street had ever seen.

In a snapshot survey of town centres and shopping malls in both counties, store bosses reported a better than expected December with hopes of an even brighter New Year as bargain hunters hit the January sales.

In Ipswich retail bosses said despite initial pessimistic predictions the Christmas period had seen a better than forecast turnout of shoppers.

Colin Roberts, manager of the Buttermarket Shopping Centre, said: “We are certainly doing better than anticipated. There has been so much said and written about the state of retail in the high street and it has been a difficult year so most retailers were expecting the worst but that hasn't happened.”


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Mike Sorhaindo, manager of Tower Ramparts Shopping Centre in Ipswich, said the weeks leading up to Christmas had seen a 15% rise in the numbers of shoppers compared to previous weeks - with even more expected today.

Meanwhile Chrissy Harrod, president of the Bury St Edmunds Chamber of Commerce, said although the start of the Christmas shopping period had been poor the last couple of weeks had been very busy.

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She said: “Of all the shops I have spoken to, they have been saying they are doing as well or better compared to this time last year - nobody I have spoken to is down on last year.”

However Bob Feltwell, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said the full picture would not be known until early next year.

He said: “We always judge the success of this period on the total sales figures right through until the first week of January because people do spread their spending now. A lot of people are given money or vouchers as presents for Christmas and as a result tend to wait for the sales.”

In Essex it was a similar story with Chris Rawlinson, Colchester town manager, saying early predictions of quiet Christmas trading had proved to be unfounded.

“We feel it is brilliant, to be honest - very positive,” she said. “It did seem to be a slow start everywhere, but then it has gone very well and there is a very positive atmosphere in the town. “Ever since we had the Christmas light switch-on it has built and built, and the message that is people are out there, they are shopping and they are happy.”

Loraine Barnett, sales and marketing director at Williams and Griffin department store in the town said they were very pleased with the level of trade with sales November and December up on last year.

Meanwhile Allan Hassell, centre manager at Clacton Factory Shopping Village, said: “We are on a par with last year at least, and we have some good clearance opportunities coming up, so it looks as if things will be up in the New Year. There are good positives on the way.”

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