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Town centres hoping for big weekend as shoppers finally hit high streets

PUBLISHED: 05:30 22 December 2018 | UPDATED: 08:17 22 December 2018

Just days before Christmas, Ipswich town centre was bustling with shoppers Picture: PAUL GEATER

Just days before Christmas, Ipswich town centre was bustling with shoppers Picture: PAUL GEATER

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Businesses in town centres across Suffolk are hoping for a bumper weekend with last-minute shoppers after a sometimes challenging festive season.

Christmas shoppers at the Arc in Bury St Edmunds Picture: MICHAEL STEWARDChristmas shoppers at the Arc in Bury St Edmunds Picture: MICHAEL STEWARD

In Ipswich the number of shoppers in the town centre has improved dramatically since the completion of the Cornhill project at the start of November.

And Ipswich Central, which represents businesses in the heart of the town, is hopeful that Christmas will be good for them.

Sailmakers shopping centre saw visitor numbers go up by 3% on last year’s figure during the first two weeks of December – and is hoping this will continue.

The town centre was certainly full of shoppers on Friday before the Christmas weekend as the big rush for last-minute presents got under way.

Bury BID chief executive Mark Cordell in the Arc shopping centre. 
Picture: OUR BURY ST EDMUNDSBury BID chief executive Mark Cordell in the Arc shopping centre. Picture: OUR BURY ST EDMUNDS

On the other side of Suffolk the chief executive of Your Bury St Edmunds, Mark Cordell, said businesses were still hoping that shoppers would open their purses this weekend.

Last week had seen a marginal rise in the number of shoppers in the town compared with the previous week, but overall in 2018 numbers have been 4.2% down on last year.

And that wasn’t the full story, with Mr Cordell saying: “Footfall is important, but what is more important for the businesses is how many people actually spend money.

“The message that we are hearing is that people are being a lot more careful this year. There is such a lot of uncertainty out there and people aren’t spending like they used to. It’s not just in high streets – you only have to look at what’s happened to (online retailer) ASOS’s share price.”

Among smaller shopping centres, Woodbridge has seen a welcome bounce from its success in reaching the final of the Great British High Street.

James Lightfoot, from Choose Woodbridge, said: “The competition certainly helped to put us on the map and it has brought more visitors to the town. We have a very good place to come and shop here with the independent stores and people seem to like that.”

Over the county border, businesses in Colchester were reporting a very busy Friday – although it had been slower earlier in the week.

And the last-minute supermarket rush has started – shoppers were struggling to find a trolley at some supermarkets as the weekend food dash began.

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