Bury St Edmunds M&S boss Garry aims to make town a ‘must visit’ destination in new role
A department store manager is aiming to make Bury St Edmunds a ‘must visit’ destination after taking a leading role at an influential business organisation.
Garry Easter, who has been manager of Marks & Spencer for nearly two years, is the new chairman of Our Bury St Edmunds.
The 49-year-old is aiming to build on the ‘great work’ of the Business Improvement District organisation by highlighting the ‘unique aspects’ of Bury St Edmunds, which for Garry has an ‘almost continental feel’.
“One of the reasons I love Bury so much is that it gives you that French feel,” he said.
“I’ve been going to France for years - a good day out is going to a local market in the sunshine, seeing a castle and having a nice bit of lunch.
“I think Bury on a warm Wednesday or Saturday gives you that same vibe and I think it’s unique with that really friendly feel.”
Mr Easter became a director at the BID in November 2016 and played an active part as a board member. He has succeeded Mark Daly, from Greene & Greene Solicitors, who has stepped down after three years in the role and remains a board member.
With high streets across the country threatened by the rise of online shopping and a slight drop in footfall in Bury St Edmunds town centre last year, Garry thinks they need to spread the word about what the town has to offer.
“Our primary goal is to promote the Bury experience for the benefit of all,” he said.
“We are unique in either the physical or digital world in what we have to offer, be it independent businesses who offer unique products and expertise; a market which is unique in its continued appeal, the wealth of foods and drink business which cater for every taste or the draw of the recognised high street chains.
“You simply do not get the friendly almost continental feel of Bury St Edmunds anywhere else.”
With a 31-year career in retail, Garry started as a management trainee at Sainsbury’s, in Norwich. He also worked for the supermarket in North Walsham, Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn.
Before taking on his role at Marks & Spencer, in Bury, he managed branches of the department store across the region in Ipswich, Colchester, Peterborough and Cambridge.
Mr Easter also worked in other areas of the business including facilities, finance and operations.
He said retail is a ‘critical area of business in Bury at the moment as we are at a point of significant change’ and stressed the importance of the town’s independent businesses and high street names.
“To have a strong retail offering you need both,” he said.
“You need the independent uniqueness but also you need some high street brands as well.”
Mr Easter said they are also working to promote food and drink businesses together with those offering services which ‘you cannot access online to make Bury St Edmunds a must visit destination’.
He said that they will continue to attract people to the town through close working with tourism brand Bury St Edmunds and Beyond as well as promoting events which ‘add to the memory of the town or give people a reason to try us in the first place’.
Mr Easter added: “We will also actively involve our members, through sharing what our plans are, gaining their insight, offering our support to aid their goals and representing them in close working with the vision of the Bury St Edmunds Masterplan.”
Mark Cordell, chief executive of Our Bury St Edmunds, said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Mark Daly who provided sound advice and guidance enabling the BID to build upon the success of its first term and thank him for the hard work he has put in over the last three years.
“Garry has put forward several ideas about how we can make Bury St Edmunds town centre an even more popular destination than it already is and I am looking forward to working with him on these.”
Mr Daly added: “Both I and my predecessor in the role were from the commercial and professional services sector and we will continue to assiduously represent those businesses. But we must not overlook the importance of our retail offering and Garry’s expertise in this area will be hugely beneficial as he leads the board forward.”