More people are visiting Bury St Edmunds and they are spending more time and money here, the latest ‘health check’ on the towns’ shopping areas has revealed.
Members of the OurBuryStEdmunds business improvement district (BID) tonight heard the results of the organisation’s fourth survey carried out by researchers from People and Places who questioned people visiting the town and businesses in the centre.
OurBuryStEdmunds said that in many aspects, Bury St Edmunds scored well above the average for town centres regionally and nationally. Footfall has increased substantially on the last three years with the study reporting 405 people passing through the town centre every 10 minutes on a market day and 233 on non-market days. Previous best figures were 292 in 2012 and 158 2014.
The figures are also significantly higher than the national average or those for similar sized towns.
Business confidence has also improved with 68 per cent of businesses saying they had increased their turnover on last year – continuing the upward trend since the study began and 27 per cent better than the national picture.
Almost 75 per cent of businesses expect their turnover to increase in the next 12 months which is nearly double the figures of 2012 and 2013.
Nearly half of those who visited the town centre stayed for between two and four hours which is a nine per cent increase on last year and 20 per cent higher than the national figure.
People are spending more money than in previous years with 43 per cent spending between £20 and £50 on a normal visit to the town. OurBuryStEdmunds’ chief executive Mark Cordell told the meeting: “When we first started these surveys it was £5 to £10. It’s 16 per cent up on last year.”
The survey revealed that 78 per cent of visitors like the physical appearance of the town and 96 per cent would recommend a visit to friends and family.
On market days only a fifth of the town’s car parking spaces are unused rising to a third on a non-market day. These are an improvement on last year’s figures and better than the national average.
However many of those who responded still called for an improved link between the arc shopping centre and the old town centre and wanted further provision of free car parking.
Mr Cordell said: “This year’s survey is incredibly positive about Bury St Edmunds, both from a business point of view and from those who visit the town centre.
“This year we had more than double the number of responses from town centre visitors than we have had in any previous year and we really appreciate the fact that so many people took time to give us their feedback.
“Although this is generally good news for Bury St Edmunds, the board of directors at the BID and I will be looking very closely at the areas that are recommended for improvement.
“Car parking has been highlighted by visitors and I am disappointed that more than half of those who responded have yet to take advantage of our Free from 3pm parking initiative on a Tuesday. Having said that, I’m very pleased to see that far fewer businesses last year indicated that parking is a major concern for them.”
He told the meeting that footfall cameras are mounted on all the entrances to the arc and in Abbeygate Street, then People and Places do an annual manual count in certain places. He said the busiest location this year was outside Crosdale’s chemist on the corner of The Traverse and Buttermarket.