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Bury Free Press BID Column March 2024

The wonderful hospitality sector that we have here in Bury St Edmunds has been very much in the spotlight this month with a visit from the Chief Executive of UK Hospitality Kate Nicholls. Accompanied by our MP Jo Churchill we were able to show a snapshot of our pubs, restaurants, hotels and the Greene King brewery to showcase why Bury is the foodie capital of Suffolk. It was therefore very pleasing to see Kate’s post on X with high praise after her visit to Lark and followed days later with warm words about the town and BIDs generally, when she gave evidence about town centres to a House of Lords committee.

As well as talking about hospitality, Jo Churchill also celebrated English Tourism Week with a visit to the Guildhall where she met tour guides and representatives of attractions associated with the Masters of The Air campaign which has been running alongside the Apple TV series. We’re also keeping our fingers crossed that the town’s tour guides will be successful in the English Tourism awards, which will be announced soon and thank you if you voted for them. Given that tourism is worth more than £50million to our local economy in and around Bury St Edmunds and supports over 1,000 jobs it was great to discuss these important employment sectors with Jo.

It’s been a big month for Bury St Edmunds with Primark opening in the former Debenhams building at arc shopping centre. When we’ve carried out town centre surveys in previous years, a lot of the answers to questions about what people would like to see here have mentioned Primark. And early evidence suggests that is the case. The first weekend that Primark was open, car park use in the town was up almost 20% on the previous year and we know that car park use was higher than usual on the second weekend too.

Giving people reasons to visit Bury St Edmunds is something we at the BID work hard at. During the Easter holidays we’ll be running a Dinosaur Egg Trail for all the family with a children’s competition in which they could win a lovely hamper of toys and goodies. I’m very grateful to the Bury Free Press which is supporting and promoting the trail and also to the large number of businesses who’ve signed up to be part of it. This trail has seen one of the highest levels of engagement from businesses in the years that we have been putting them on.

When the trail finishes we have a special Dino Adventure free event on April 10 in the heart of the market that day. There will be baby dinosaurs and other characters to meet and a family craft area. I hope you and your business have a good Easter weekend, whether you’re looking to be busy with customers or taking a well- earned break.

By Mark Cordell, CEO, Our Bury St Edmunds BID.

 

Bury St Edmunds Hospitality Businesses Showcased

Hospitality business owners in Bury St Edmunds have been talking about the key issues affecting their sector with the head of a leading trade organisation. UK Hospitality’s Chief Executive Kate Nicholls OBE was visiting the town – known as Suffolk’s foodie capital – alongside Jo Churchill MP for Bury St Edmunds earlier today (Friday 15 March).

Ms Nicholls met those working in pub, hotel and restaurant businesses in the town and also went to the Greene King brewery, which has been a significant part of the Bury St Edmunds economy for more than 200 years. She was also accompanied by UK Hospitality member Roxane Marjoram, who owns The One Bull and other local hospitality businesses with her husband David.

The visit began at the historic Angel Hotel. Owner Robert Gough said: “It was extremely valuable to sit down with Kate Nicholls and our MP to discuss the hotel sector and its current challenges. My family has run boutique destinations in Suffolk for nearly 60 years but that doesn’t mean we can ever take our eye off the ball.”

Joining the group and representing the town centre’s wider hospitality sector was Mark Cordell, Chief Executive of Our Bury St Edmunds BID (Business Improvement District). He commented: “We have around 100 hospitality business members of the BID and it is a critical element of our local economy. I’m in regular contact anyway with our MP about issues affecting the town centre but was delighted to have this opportunity talk further with Jo and Kate about why Bury St Edmunds is the foodie capital of Suffolk and discuss some of our members’ concerns such as VAT, staffing and the rising costs all are facing.”

Following the meeting at The Angel, the visitors were taken by Pedalcab to the Greene King brewery. Ms Nicholls was also given a short tour of part of the town centre during which a number of other hospitality businesses were highlighted before Roxane and David Marjoram welcomed her to The One Bull. The group then visited Lark run by award-winning chef-patron James Carn.

The UK Hospitality Chief Executive found her day in Bury St Edmunds extremely valuable and thanked Jo Churchill MP for the invitation. She added: “This has been an opportunity to visit long-established and much newer hospitality businesses here but it’s clear that collectively they all contribute to a sector that is so vital to Bury St Edmunds as a destination. As well as the names above the door at these establishments there are the behind-the-scenes staff who all play their part in making sure they offer the best guest experiences and UK Hospitality is here for all of them. While I have seen a lot of positives today, I know that businesses in Bury St Edmunds will still be looking to us to lobby Government and influence policy to help this sector thrive.”

Jo Churchill MP added: “It was great to welcome Kate Nicholls to Bury St Edmunds and for her to meet some fabulous business owners here. We do food better than just about anybody else in the country and we are definitely the foodie capital of the East. To have the lead voice of UK Hospitality here talking about not only the great foodie offer we have, but also some of the challenges to the industry was quite a marker for Bury St Edmunds and my thanks to Our Bury St Edmunds BID and all the businesses.”

Nationally UK Hospitality represents more than 100,000 venues across the UK. The sector contributes £93 billion to the UK economy, employs 3.5 million people and generates £54 billion in tax for the Treasury.

Bury Free Press BID Column January 2024

It’s always good to start a new year with optimism and Our Bury St Edmunds received good news from our footfall figures for December recently. In the week leading up to Christmas our data shows that the town was busier than at the same time in the previous two years. Coupled with the results of our benchmarking survey of businesses, shoppers and visitors to the town centre from which a couple of key points were that people tend to spend more money in town compared to the national average and that 70 per cent of businesses rated the prosperity of the town as positive – it’s very encouraging. While we know that there are still challenges in the economy, it is always useful to see how the town centre is performing compared to others nationally and regionally, especially when the results are so positive.

It’s a busy time of year in the town centre too next month with lots to look forward to not least the first ever Bury St Edmunds Comedy Festival which runs from 1 February. The Apex, Theatre Royal, Guildhall and The Hunter Club have been working hard to make this happen supported by Bury St Edmunds and Beyond and the BID. Matt Forde and Brian Bilston are just two of the big names to look forward to.

Meanwhile the eagerly anticipated Second World War series for Apple TV+, ‘Masters of the Air’ (launching today) has strong connections with the Bury St Edmunds area. The town’s tour guides have produced a special guided walk to coincide with it and it’s hoped that interest in the series will bring tourists and visitors to the town.

Also in February we’ll see the opening of Everyman Cinema in the basement of the former Debenhams at arc Shopping Centre. The building will also house the eagerly awaited Primark branch which is due to open just a few weeks later.

Of course the shopping centre also hosted the Bury St Edmunds family ice rink over the Christmas holidays. This attraction was made possible by a partnership formed of the BID, arc Shopping Centre, Bury St Edmunds Town Council and West Suffolk Council. It was also an opportunity to support Gatehouse which runs the food bank for the town and early indications suggest around £2,500 was raised to support their work.

All of us at the BID were shocked and saddened to hear of the unexpected death of Maria Broadbent the former owner of Casa. She joined our Board in 2016 bringing an energy and enthusiasm that would see her go on to chair the organisation. Our condolences to Maria’s family and loved ones.

By Mike Kirkham, Business Support Manager, Our Bury St Edmunds BID.

 

Paying Tribute to Maria Broadbent

It was with great sadness that we recently heard about the passing of Maria Broadbent, former Our Bury St Edmunds BID Board member & our Chair between 2021 and 2023.

BID Chief Executive Mark Cordell said: “I had the pleasure of knowing and working with Maria, in my capacity of BID CEO, for over 10 years.

“She was one of the most entrepreneurial, enthusiastic, creative, innovative and hard working business owners I have had the pleasure to work with.
Her contribution to the BID during her tenure as a Board member and for her last couple of years in Bury St Edmunds, as our Chair, was considerable.

“She had a very varied employment history and used the experiences and qualities she had learned and developed elsewhere, to the benefit of her business, Casa and the BID.

“She left Bury St Edmunds a year ago to start a new business and move nearer to her family who she adored.

“Maria was a larger-than-life character, with a great positive personality, a can-do attitude and was someone who frequently saw opportunities where others saw difficulties.”

The photo below is of Maria in action at our Food and Drink Festival doing what she loved.

The thoughts and sympathies of our team are with Maria’s family at this very difficult time.

Bury Free Press BID Column December 2023

As the year draws to a close it’s still a very busy season for many of our town centre businesses. In retail customers are heading for the sales, hopefully looking to spend Christmas money and Our Bury St Edmunds Gift Cards and hospitality businesses will be celebrating New Year’s Eve. Meanwhile the Bury St Edmunds Family Christmas Ice Rink is still in place at arc Shopping Centre and will be there until Wednesday, offering a great free attraction for families in the school holidays.

Earlier this month we held our annual competition to find the town centre’s best dressed festive shop window. Everyone makes such an effort with their Christmas displays and customers and visitors to the town centre select the winner by voting on the LoyalFree app. Edit Clinic, which has been based in Risbygate Street for around two years was a runaway winner this year for owner Victoria, with Gerald Boughton Formal Hire and River Island our two runners up. Congratulations to them all.

And talking of winners Bury St Edmunds was crowned England’s most dog-friendly town at a ceremony last month and runner-up for the UK title. The dog-friendly destination initiative has been a success thanks to the hard work of Jon Kay from Camp Tails Doggy Day Care with support from us at the Business Improvement District (BID) and also Bury St Edmunds Town Council.

The Town Council has partnered the BID in a number of initiatives for the benefit of the town centre in recent years, including the current ice rink attraction. Much of this has been made possible with the help and encouragement of the retiring Town Clerk, Greg Luton, and I wish him well and thank him for all he’s done to enable this productive partnership.

Although during 2023 the economy has never been far from the news headlines, Bury St Edmunds – while not without its challenges – has still been attracting new businesses. With the number in double figures for this year, we have more to look forward to in 2024 with Primark and Everyman Cinema as the eagerly awaited new tenants of the flagship building at arc Shopping Centre.

Big ‘High Street’ names are critical for the success of a town centre but just as important are the smaller independent businesses – and Bury St Edmunds and especially St Johns Street is well known for its eclectic mix. Small Business Saturday is an initiative to celebrate and promote the independents and I was pleased to accompany our MP, Jo Churchill, on a visit to Hatter Street recently so she could see first hand how important this element of the local economy is. Another small business celebrating success is Lark which has been featured in the latest Michelin Guide.

Finally, all of us at Our Bury St Edmunds wish you a happy and prosperous New Year and thank all who have supported our town centre businesses in 2023.

By Mark Cordell, CEO of Our Bury St Edmunds BID.

Bury St Edmunds skating rink officially opens in town centre

A group of excited students from a Bury St Edmunds school have been the first to take to the ice at the opening of a special Christmas attraction for the town centre.
The first session of the Bury St Edmunds Family Christmas Ice Rink at arc Shopping Centre had been booked exclusively for the youngsters from Riverwalk School.

The town’s Mayor Diane Hind officially cut the ribbon to open the highly realistic synthetic ice rink yesterday (Thursday December 14). It has been installed by Our Bury St Edmunds which runs the Business Improvement District (BID) and arc Shopping Centre with financial support from Bury St Edmunds Town Council and other partners.

Councillor Hind, who chairs the Town Council, said: “It was an honour to perform the official opening and the children were so thrilled to be the first to skate. What a wonderful end of term treat for them. I can see this being such a popular festive attraction for the town centre.”

The Bury St Edmunds Family Christmas Ice Rink, which will be able to cater for up to 25 skaters per session, is now open every day (except Christmas Day) in Charter Square until Wednesday January 3. It is part of the Christmas In Bury St Edmunds experience from a partnership hosting a variety of events over the festive holiday period.

Chief Executive of Our Bury St Edmunds BID Mark Cordell said: “We wanted to provide some free family entertainment in the town centre for the Christmas holidays because this can be a costly time of year for many. I’m so impressed by how realistic the ice looks, while being much more environmentally friendly and of course in no danger of melting. It was wonderful to be able to welcome the school as the first users of this fully accessible activity.”

The synthetic ice rink, provided by Odin Events, is one of the most advanced available giving the closest possible experience to real ice but without the environmental impact and high energy use of keeping the rink frozen.

Allan Hassell who manages arc Shopping Centre and is also Vice-Chairman of Our Bury St Edmunds BID commented: “There has been a great deal of excitement around arc Shopping Centre in the last few days as preparations were made to open the skating rink and I know it’s going to be enjoyed by all ages, whether they have skated before or are complete beginners. It was lovely to see such enthusiasm for skating as the Mayor cut the ribbon.”

The Bury St Edmunds Family Christmas Ice Rink will also be supporting Gatehouse, which operates the town’s food bank, as its charity partner. During the first week of opening, at the request of the Town Council, a number of local schools and community groups have booked the ice rink for their exclusive use. The best way to discover when the rink is open to the public is to visit Bury St Edmunds Family Christmas Ice Rink – Our Bury St Edmunds

Bury Free Press BID Column November 2023

It’s starting to look and feel very Christmassy in the town centre now following the Our Bury St Edmunds Christmas Lights Event last week. It was good to see lots of people enjoying everything the afternoon and evening had to offer. Many thanks to all who supported the event, we’ve had some very positive feedback.

This time of year is one of the most important trading periods for our member businesses. We know that the economic climate is still very challenging but I am heartened by how vibrant our town centre remains. Mowgli has recently opened on Abbeygate Street and Sneaky Links crazy golf experience and bar has its official opening today in the premises formerly housing Revel Outdoors on Brentgovel Street. I’m always delighted when businesses choose to open a branch here especially if it is a first for them in Suffolk or even East Anglia. Meanwhile Gusto Pronto is an established independent hospitality business locally that has just taken over Damson & Wilde in Abbeygate Street from City Pub Group. And Crumbs is also relocating into The Traverse soon from its current location in High Baxter Street.

This week saw the official launch of a new service for town centre businesses and shoppers, from the award-winning social enterprise EcoCarriers BSE. Shop&Drop is a cycle delivery service for anyone who lives in Bury St Edmunds and a number of nearby villages. It’s now possible to have your shopping delivered on the same day and I imagine it will be a huge boost for people who don’t really want to bring the car a short distance into town for shopping but don’t otherwise have the means of getting their purchases home. A number of our BID member businesses have already signed up to the Shop&Drop initiative and if you are a business owner who wants to support a zero-emission delivery service then do have a look at EcoCarriers BSE. For shoppers, in many cases, the delivery cost will be less than the price of parking the car.

We have recently been running a couple of surveys – one for businesses in the town centre and the other one consumer based for residents and visitors. Thank you to everyone who has completed one or other of them. By letting us know in this way about any issues that are detrimentally affecting your business we can gather evidence for partner organisations to address concerns.

Finally, we hope that the Our Bury St Edmunds Gift Card will be popular again as a gift this Christmas. It has gone from strength to strength since its launch and is now accepted by around 70 town centre businesses. Don’t miss out on this opportunity – there is still time to register to accept it as payment before we anticipate a big spend on it in the new year. Full details are on the Our Bury St Edmunds website or please contact us for more information.

 

By Mark Cordell, CEO of Our Bury St Edmunds BID.

 

Bury St Edmunds – England’s Most Dog Friendly Town

Bury St Edmunds is officially the most Dog Friendly Town in England.

The town reached the finals of the DogFriendly Awards 2023 in the Most Dog Friendly Town/City category at The Kennel Club HQ in London on November 29. The three finalists were Bury St Edmunds, Eastbourne, and Girvan.

Girvan in Scotland took home 1st place for the Most Dog Friendly Town/City in the UK while Bury St Edmunds won silver and is now the most Dog Friendly Town in England.

With dog-friendly accommodation, cafes and restaurants, plus attractions and days out that your pooch will love, the historic town and surrounding towns and villages are the ideal place to enjoy a short break or holiday with every member of the family – including the furry variety!

The town has had its own Dog Friendly Bury St Edmunds scheme for the last five years to let visitors know where you can bring your four-legged pal. More than 100 businesses have signed up.

Wherever the #dogfriendlybse paw print logo sticker is displayed in windows, businesses will welcome dogs in a town-wide and beyond initiative from Bury St Edmunds Town Council, Camp Tails Doggy Daycare, Our Bury St Edmunds BID (Business Improvement District) and Bury St Edmunds and Beyond.

Dog Friendly businesses in the town centre are also marked with a blue paw on the Our Bury St Edmunds BID Town Map and there’s a Dog Friendly Businesses Town Trail to enjoy on the LoyalFree Bury St Edmunds app!

The town’s tourism brand Bury St Edmunds and Beyond, now part of Our Bury St Edmunds BID, has also been running a digital marketing campaign throughout the autumn to encourage people (from a 2–3-hour drive time away) to book a Dog Friendly stay in the town, along with a photo competition for the best photo of a dog in an iconic spot in Bury St Edmunds.

The DogFriendly Awards are an opportunity to recognise and reward dog friendly places and pet businesses that go the extra mile for the benefit of the UK’s 12.5 million dogs and their owners. Winners of the DogFriendly Awards (it is in its 11th year this year) in each of the categories are chosen by public vote.

Chief Executive of Our Bury St Edmunds BID, which now includes the town’s official tourism brand Bury St Edmunds and Beyond, Mark Cordell said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been shortlisted for this prestigious UK award which is recognition of the great progress the town has made in being a recognised dog friendly destination since we launched the scheme with Jon Kay of Camp Tails Doggy Daycare and Bury St Edmunds Town Council 5 years ago. We are grateful for the support we have received from over 100 BID businesses who now warmly welcome dogs and their owners! into their premises.

“Our congratulations to Girvan in Scotland and to Eastbourne who were also finalists. We can now proudly say we are England’s Most Dog Friendly Town.

“I believe that being a dog friendly destination encourages more dog owners to come into our town centre, stay longer and visit more businesses, than they would if they had to leave their dog at home. I would like to recognise the work of Jon Kay from Camp Tails for his initial idea and contribution to making the scheme such a success”

Jon Kay is the owner of Camp Tails Doggy Daycare and the only hotel for dogs in the town and he founded the Dog Friendly Bury St Edmunds Scheme with former Bury St Edmunds Town Councillor Clive Springett. Jon said: “One of my main goals when we created the scheme was to make Bury St Edmunds recognised as one of the most dog friendly locations in the UK, but I didn’t think for a minute we would potentially be recognised by the national dog friendly awards. I’m super proud and excited to have this vision become a reality.”

To find out more about Dog Friendly Bury St Edmunds visit www.dogfriendlybse.co.uk

 

EcoCarriers Shop&Drop scheme launches in Bury St Edmunds

Pedal-powered delivery crews are helping businesses in Bury St Edmunds give a greener level of service to their customers with a brand new option for shoppers. Award-winning EcoCarriers BSE has been offering a delivery service around Bury and the surrounding villages for around 18 months but has now expanded it to include Shop&Drop same day delivery from a number of businesses in town as well as traders on the Saturday market.

Shop&Drop, which currently has almost a dozen businesses participating in its initial trial, offers the delivery service to customers in Bury St Edmunds and the surrounding villages from as little as £2. Shopping must be ready for collection by 2pm and will be delivered by bicycle or cargo-bike by 6pm. The project has been supported by West Suffolk and Suffolk County Councils as well as the Our Bury St Edmunds Business Improvement District (BID).

Director of EcoCarriers BSE Libby Ranzetta who is one of the founders of the not-for-profit social enterprise is excited to be launching the service. She said: “We started our initial delivery service for local businesses last year and Shop&Drop has been a natural extension to that. The response has been fantastic with a number of different businesses getting involved from big brand names like Marks & Spencer to independents. Thanks to West Suffolk Council we are also able to have a stall on the Saturday market where shoppers can bring their purchases as they peruse the stalls or shops and we’ll deliver that afternoon.”

The initiative has been supported by Suffolk County Council’s Climate Emergency Partnership fund.

The authority’s Deputy Cabinet Member for Transport Strategy, Councillor Alexander Nicoll, commented: “Shop&Drop has the potential to considerably reduce short-journey car use in and around Bury St Edmunds. Now shoppers who would prefer to walk, cycle or catch a bus into town but don’t want to struggle home again with heavy shopping bags have the perfect sustainable solution. We are pleased to support this green transport initiative as we work with partners towards our aspiration of making the county carbon-neutral by 2030.”

Shop&Drop can also deliver items ordered over the phone or online. A single 35L crate of goods costs £2 for delivery within the town including Moreton Hall, Lark Grange and Marham Park or £4.50 to nearby villages including Great Barton, Horringer and Nowton.

Chief Executive of Our Bury St Edmunds Mark Cordell said: “I am very pleased to see so many of our BID member businesses offering delivery in this way and hope that more and more shoppers will make use of it. Anything that can reduce the number of shorter journeys by car will help our environment and in many cases the delivery charge will be less than the cost of parking alone.”

For more information about Shop&Drop visit ecocarriersbse.co.uk.