Staying longer and spending more ...
Staying longer and spending more
People are spending more money and staying longer in Bury St Edmunds on their visits to the town centre than ever before according to a new study. Almost all of those questioned said they would recommend a visit to the town to others and 55% – the highest number since the initiative began – have taken advantage of the free parking from 3pm offer on a Tuesday.
The annual ‘benchmarking report’ also found that the town’s car parks are busier than they have been since the survey began in 2012, especially on a market day. And 90% of respondents welcomed West Suffolk Council’s Pay on Exit parking trial, which started this month.
The study to find out how the town is perceived by the people who use it is commissioned by the Business Improvement District (BID) organisation Our Bury St Edmunds. The results are published today ahead of the BID’s AGM which took place at the Athenaeum on 18th June.
Our Bury St Edmunds Chief Executive Mark Cordell feels the report paints a very rosy picture of the town. He said: “Nearly 60% of people rated our retail offer as a positive – on average in a large town the figure is less than a quarter. Many people added further comments, particularly highlighting what a positive effect our independent shops have on the town and how they’d like to see even more of them.
“The range of restaurants and cafes was rated as a positive by 80% of those questioned and the markets by more than 60% - their highest score since the study began. It was also very encouraging to see such a good response to the survey – more than double the numbers who took part in 2016 and 2017 and considerably more than last year too.”
The report has reinforced the view that Bury St Edmunds is still a great place to live, work and run a business. More than 70% of those questioned said they visit at least once a week and 46% said they stayed for between two and four hours – nationally this figure is less than 20%. The amount people are spending in the town centre is also on the increase – 55% said they spend more than £20 when they visit, the highest figure since the study began.
Mark Cordell added: “While there are many positives in this report we also asked people what they perceived as the negatives and for their comments on changes they would like to see. These responses – and as in previous years many of the comments focussed on car parking – will be looked at very carefully and of course we will make the local authorities we work with aware of them. I was heartened though to see such enthusiasm for the Pay on Exit trial – nearly 80% of those questioned indicated they would like to see such a scheme in more of the town’s car parks.”
In many aspects of the report, Bury St Edmunds scored well above the national average for large town centres. The significant findings of the research included:
• 98% of people said they would recommend a visit to Bury St Edmunds to others – which is 30% higher than other towns.
• Bury’s car parks are busier on both market days and non-market days than both the national average and previous years’ surveys. On average just 12% of spaces are empty on a market day (compared to 22% last year) and fewer than 30% on a non-market day.
• 80% of respondents said cafes and restaurants were a positive aspect of the town, which is consistent with previous years and around 50% higher than the national average. • The ease with which people can walk around the town centre was the highest rated positive aspect with 81% highlighting this.
• Physical appearance, cleanliness, retail offer and markets all scored significantly higher as positives compared to other towns.
• The aspects rated highest as negatives with just over a third highlighting each of them were car parking and public toilets.
The study was commissioned for the eighth year running and was carried out by researchers from People and Places via an online survey. The full report will be considered by the board of Our Bury St Edmunds in the coming weeks.
Notes: 631 people responded to the survey. 72% of those said they visited Bury St Edmunds at least once a week.
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