Ipswich Central's vision for the town centre is for more big name brands, more multiple retailers and more suitably square (rather than long) premises. Unsurprisingly this is not a view I agree with and in my opinion what we need is more independents, more shops offering personal service and more choice. Big chains dominate the high street and more will simply add to the clone town image which does nothing to differentiate Ipswich from Chelmsford or Romford. We don't have a castle, a cathedral or a major tourist attraction so what we must do is differentiate the retail 'architecture', not duplicate the offer available everywhere.
We don't want more big businesses paying exorbitant rents for the prime retail space, and by default pushing up the rents in adjacent spaces. We should think local like Doncaster, Dumfries or Ludlow - successful town centres with independent shops - not copy big retail centres like Norwich or Cambridge. The difficulty is getting the balance of the retail offer right. Several shoe shops make the trip to town worthwhile for comparison shopping. But how many mobile phone shops in a row over-dominate? Shopping malls have exclusivity rights and limit the number of particular types of retail outlet, but for certain popular commodities like couture fashion they are never limited to a single shop, or the comparisons cannot be made and the shopper will go elsewhere.
What do independents offer that the multiples frequently don't? It is much more than personal service; it's being served by people, people you know, not necessarily by name but by faces that become familiar, whose opinions you trust and advice you value. It is discovering different goods, unusual gifts, unique items, not the bland sameness available anywhere. The quality of shopper increases with the quality of shop.