Last year the number of shops selling goods for a pound or less
increased by 11 % (Local Data Company survey of 500 towns). The
number of charity shops increased by 9% and bookmakers now
outnumber banks in main shopping centres. As Middle England's
middle class consumers become increasingly mobile and internet
savvy, the need for quality shops, department stores and small
shopping centres decreases alarmingly.
But, no worries - Ipswich is getting a Little Waitrose (a sandwich
and dinner in a box shop), a John Lewis At Home (touchy feely,
order for delivery the next day store) and a proper Waitrose, the
latter two on the Crane's site, Nacton Road. The developer assures
me that this re-development will have no effect on the town centre
- in much the same way as the developer of Westfield Stratford
assured the planners that the two million sq ft of retail space next
to the Olympic Park would not have an effect on the regional towns
in the catchment area. Stratford is 55 minutes by direct train from
Ipswich and every pound you spend in Westfield will be another
pound you don't spend locally.
On the day T J Hughes moved out of the Buttermarket, Colin
Roberts the Centre manager said he was at a loss to know what
other retail company would ever move into the vacated space.
After Owen Owen, Allders and now T J Hughes there appear to be
very few, if any, stores that require 100,000 sq ft of retail space.
I understand there are retailers who are interested in a move into
Ipswich but require a large column-free space on a single floor
in the prime shopping area, the agent for one describing existing
available shops as "medieval sheds."
Nationally the percentage of empty high street shops is 14.5%.
In Ipswich the current figure is 11.5%. (Norwich 12.3%). These
figures have remained static for the last two quarters. We've
lost some nationals but there have been a small number of new
But here is the dilemma. Does The Ipswich Society object to
AquiGen's proposals on behalf of the John Lewis Partnership
at Crane's? They will clean up the whole 44 acres, install the
infrastructure and make available 19 acres for retail (John Lewis
taking two units totalling 70,000 sq ft) with the remaining 25 acres
for 'employment'. They claim they have 30 to 40 other businesses
who have expressed an interest in moving on to the 'park' once
Waitrose opens. Clearly additional out-of-town retail will have an
effect on the town centre, especially with the Tesco development in
Grafton Way - but we've been waiting for a Waitrose for years!
John Norman, Vice-Chairman