Bury St Edmunds town centre footfall down nearly 40 per cent on last year but visitor numbers up week on week
Footfall in Bury St Edmunds town centre is down nearly 40 per cent on last year but a business leader hopes mandatory face masks, a Government discount scheme at eateries and a family trail will encourage more visitors.
Latest figures from Our Bury St Edmunds shows footfall this year up to July 19 is down 39.7 per cent on last year with 66,979 visitors recorded for the week beginning July 13.
In the same week last year there were 89,840 visitors but the figures represent an increase on the previous week which saw 62,449 people in the town.
Our Bury St Edmunds has a footfall camera, in Abbeygate Street.
Mark Cordell, chief executive of Our Bury St Edmunds, said while the figures were 'moving in the right direction', they will have to 'work harder' to encourage people back.
He hopes the mandatory rule on wearing face coverings and masks in shops, which begins today, will reassure those who have avoided the town centre due to safety concerns.
"We know not everyone welcomes the mandatory direction but in general terms we think it's a good thing," Mr Cordell said.
He also pointed to the Government's Eat Out to Help Out Scheme, which provides a 50 per cent discount at registered eateries every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday between August 3 and 31.
"We're collating details of which businesses in the town are doing this but it's looking like there will be over 20 restaurants as part of the scheme and we're going to promote that through August," he said.
Meanwhile, a new trail for families and visitors to Bury St Edmunds town centre to find 'monster superheroes' in aid of the NHS runs until the first week of September.
"We're also very conscious that footfall is only an indication for our businesses," Mr Cordell said. "The key is spend and we're getting feedback that people are spending less time browsing and more time spending.
"At the moment that's positive but what they don't then have is the ability to engage in conversation to get people back and upsale."
He added that he had raised the possibility with businesses as to whether they wanted to offer reimbursements of car parking charges based on a minimum spend to try to encourage more people into the town but was 'awaiting a response'.
"All the things that attracted people into Bury before exist," Mr Cordell said. "Fundamentally it hasn't changed, what has changed is people's behaviour.
"We need to break down as many barriers, establish why people don't want to come in and try to address that and this whole process will be ongoing.
"All of our independent businesses are being very positive about the need to adapt, be flexible and change their business models."
More by this authorPaul Derrick
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