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Dramatic slump in shopper footfall in Bury St Edmunds as bad weather takes its toll

Abbeygate Street
Abbeygate Street

A stark drop in high street visitors to Bury St Edmunds in March has lead a business boss to describe the figures as a ‘reality check’.

Footfall figures recorded for March in the town were 17 per cent down on the same period last year as snow and continuous rainfall for the last 10 days of the month kept shoppers away.

In 2017 footfall recorded through the activation monitor in Abbeygate Street in March was 405,000 but this year the figure slumped to 335,000.

Meanwhile February’s footfall figures showed only a drop of .4 per cent year on year while January to February figures year on year were down two per cent.

The March figures are twice as high as those recorded nationally at an eight per cent dip.

While the weather has been partly to blame for the national figures, high street traders are struggling with the impact of online shopping and high rents and rates,

Mark Cordell, chief executive officer for business organisation Our Bury St Edmunds, said: “We are not complacent and are concerned with regard to how things are impacting the high street not just here but across the country. We are working hard to ensure we have a great offer here and that we are telling the public about that offer.”

Mr Cordell said Bury was also affected by the impact of four empty large business units. Argos has moved its outlet in the Butter Market to Sainsbury, while Hawkins Bazaar in Cornhill was a short term let and Bett Fred closed following its merger with Ladbrooke’s Palmers has also closed it units in the town.

Mr Cordell added: “We’ve still got a pretty healthy town and the tourist season is about to begin but this has been a bit of a reality check.”

“Talking to our members they say things are OK but not as good as they could be.”

This weekend will see an experimental art and technical organisation performing around the town centre.

Reframing Bury St Edmunds is a co-operation between three creative teams, Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury councils,|Our Bury St Edmunds and West Suffolk College. Sites featuring the works are the former Palmers store, Buy the Light, The Apex, Hughes and the alleyway between The Works and WH Smiths.

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