New businesses opening and higher footfall have given Bury St Edmunds town centre a great start to 2017.
For the first time since the Brexit vote in June, the town is bucking the national trend on empty units as vacancy rates fell slightly in December.
Footfall for the whole of 2016 also saw Bury performing better than other towns both nationally and regionally with a 2 per cent increase.
In the East of England footfall in 2016 fell by 0.6 per cent and across the country it dropped by 1.1 per cent. Empty units in the town centre account for 6.9 per cent of premises – more than 3 per cent lower than the national average.
The figures come as no surprise to Suzanne Cooper who owns The Parsley Pot gift shop in Abbeygate Street.
She said: “We have had our best year of trading since taking over the shop around 13 years ago.
“Footfall and the amount people are spending are noticeably higher and alongside our loyal local customers there are more people who are taking weekend breaks in the area or coming here to shop from other parts of Suffolk.
“The events that attract people into the town centre have really helped boost business, but it is also the way the town is looked after. Many customers comment on the appearance of Bury St Edmunds and how well kept the town centre is.”
The footfall figures are published by the Business Improvement District (BID) organisation Ourburystedmunds.
Chief executive Mark Cordell said: “It’s very pleasing to see Bury doing so well, particularly when the figures suggest that it is not the same picture elsewhere.
“2016 brought challenges and uncertainty at times and Bury St Edmunds is not immune to what is happening everywhere else but we will be working hard with our partners to make the town attractive for businesses and visitors alike.
“In 2017 we will be continuing our efforts to attract visitors to the area and I am heartened by Suzanne’s comments that independent shops like The Parsley Pot are proving so successful with our visitors.
“The BID will once again be running a series of events this year and with a new member of staff joining us soon to assist with the marketing I have high hopes of building on this current success.”
Recent businesses opening in the town centre, which have contributed to the fall in the vacant units rate include: Francela on Angel Hill; The Sheesh, Risbygate Street; Furniture Market, Brentgovel Street and Papaki’s Deli in The Buttermarket.
The Ourburystedmunds footfall figures are calculated based on an entry point to the town on Abbeygate Street. They are compiled for the BID by Springboard.