Business outlook on Ipswich High Street in the summer of 2022

06:00 30 August 2022

As the summer holidays draw to a close, High Street traders reflected on the delicate state of a recovering High Street and the challenges ahead.

New figures show Ipswich’s high street is slowly recovering from the pandemic, but footfall is lower this year than in 2021.

Data collected by Ipswich Borough Council shows the number of shoppers from April to June 2022 was 726,500, almost 350,000 less than the same time last year.

However, almost 300,000 more people are shopping on the high street than during the same period in 2020 – the peak of the first Covid-19 lockdown.

The data comes as a number of Ipswich businesses are signaling a two-pronged war, battling rising costs and falling sales.

Kie Humphreys, owner of Coffee Cat cafe on the Ipswich seafront, said he noticed a significant drop in the number of customers.

“We’ve definitely seen a massive drop this season,” he said.

Coffee Cat owner Kie Humphreys said: ‘Business is being hit from two sides – we have increased costs and less sales’
– Credit: David Vincent

“I think people don’t know what’s coming and that discourages them from spending.

“Businesses are hit from two sides – we have increased costs and less sales.

“Based on this regression, we had to make cuts.

“I won’t be optimistic until we know what lies ahead.”

Ipswich Borough Council leader Cllr David Ellesmere called for “more to be done”, but remained buoyant with his expectations for the summer and winter.

“Ipswich have recovered well since Covid but there is still a long way to go,” he said.

“We’ve been successful with a few tenders for improvements in the city center and we’ve also had a lot of recent successes that we’ve delivered.

“We also plan to make this Christmas in Ipswich a big attraction and we will continue to look for opportunities.”

Leader of Ipswich Borough Council David Ellesmere.

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere remains optimistic about summer and winter attendance
– Credit: Charlotte Bond

One program that has boosted income for Ipswich businesses has been The Big Hoot Art Trail, where more than 10,981 miles have been walked since June 19.

Elmer’s Grand Parade in 2019 attracted 390,000 people to the trail, 70% of whom said it was their main reason for visiting Ipswich.

Cathy Frost, owner of the Loveone gift shop on St Peter’s Street, said: “The Big Hoot Trail has helped us get pretty good footfall this summer.

“It’s been a positive but not amazing season due to the current cost of living crisis and we’re still recovering from the pandemic.

“But the owls brought in families who didn’t know we were here.

Cathy Frost, owner of Loveone in Ipswich.

Cathy Frost, owner of Loveone, said the Big Hoot owls ‘brought in families who didn’t know we were here’
– Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

“So that will hopefully help us in the long run as well.

“But there’s a nervousness about what’s to come.

“We’re all uncertain, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s like nothing happened.”

Bethany Smyth of Jacey's Coffee House, St Stephen's Lane

Bethany Smyth of Jacey’s Coffee House, St Stephen’s Lane
– Credit: Hospice Sainte Elisabeth

Hullabaloo's Jennie Debenham

Hullabaloo’s Jennie Debenham
– Credit: Hospice Sainte Elisabeth

Similarly, at Jacey’s Coffee House in St Stephen’s Lane, team leader Bethany Smyth said things had been “much busier” since the launch of Big Hoot and at Hullabaloo owner Jennie Debenham said that the trail had helped visitors learn about independent stores throughout the city.

Zest's Lucy Beckett said sales and attendance have increased thanks to the Big Hoot Trail.

Zest’s Lucy Beckett said sales and attendance have increased thanks to the Big Hoot Trail.
– Credit: Hospice Sainte Elisabeth

Lucy Beckett, Store Manager at Zest, added: “The Big Hoot has been going very well and over the past month it has certainly brought more people to our Zest store and downtown, as they seek to find all the Hoots on their maps and Big Hoot apps.

“Our sales and footfall have increased and it’s great that our Zest Boutique volunteers are a part of that as well.”

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