Bleak Christmas for Ipswich town centre as fewer shoppers turn out

Ipswich Christmas shoppers

There were shoppers out in Ipswich town centre on Saturday morning - but not as many as expected a week before Christmas. - Credit: Paul Geater

Businesses in Ipswich town centre endured a disappointing last weekend before Christmas as many shoppers seemed to stay away because of fears of the Omicron variant of Covid.

Ipswich Central Chief Operating Sophie Alexander-Parker said retailers had said they were no busier this weekend than they had been three weeks ago - and a week before Christmas is traditionally the most important of the year for the sector.

She said: "The hospitality sector has also been hit incredibly hard. It has seen customer numbers fall dramatically. It is very bad news all around. These problems could not have come at a worse time.

"So far as shops are concerned this is the time of the year that many rely on to make everything add up - and there just haven't been the numbers.

"It's not that there's nobody about, it's just that we are not seeing the number of customers they expect and rely on at this time of the year. It is very worrying."

The concerns have prompted Ipswich Central to join other BID companies from across the country to write to government to ask for more support for businesses that have been hit by the new Omicron concerns.

Nationally there were reports that footfall had been 1-2% down on last weekend - but in a normal year it would have been much higher just before Christmas.

Not everywhere seems to have been badly hit - Mark Cordell from Our Bury St Edmunds said the town centre there seemed very busy on both Saturday and Sunday.

Most Read

But he did say that Bury tends not to depend so heavily on town centre workers to visit its retailers so that might give it an advantage - Ipswich stores have suffered severely because more people are working from home and not visiting the town centre on a daily basis.

Nationally figures suggested that smaller towns and cities had not suffered as much loss of trade as the big city centres like London, Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool because people were not travelling long distances on major Christmas shopping trips.