Family friendly Christmas shopping at the Arc in Bury St Edmunds
- Credit: Rachel Ducker
With lockdown lifted Rachel Ducker joins Christmas shoppers at the Arc in Bury St Edmunds and finds it a safe, friendly and enjoyable experience
For me and my family, safety is at the forefront of this expedition. Luckily, we have an open-air shopping centre on our doorstep. The Arc undoubtedly appears a little different at the moment with Covid restrictions in place, but there is still plenty of fun to be had, for all the family.
Our first stop is always a fuelling stop. I have to confess, this is purely tactical to keep my husband happy in the hope he will carry my shopping bags. With a Costa coffee in hand, we set off.
Like many mums out there, I am sure I am not alone in admitting that I now take more pleasure in buying for my one-year-old son that I do myself.
There are plenty of places to shop for the kids, including Jojo Maman Bebe, Smiggle, and JD sports recently joining the Arc family in place of HMV. On this occasion our lucky little Leo acquired some new Nike trainers, which will sit nicely underneath our Christmas tree until the big day.
Most of the shops have a small queue to join due to the number of people allowed inside. Once you enter – wearing your face covering – you are greeted by a staff member on the door who politely advises you to sanitise your hands. It may seem extreme to some people, but I am all for this in order to keep things open and remain safe.
For me, being greeted on the door feels quite special – you usually have to pay for that kind of service.
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With Leo ticked off my list, my attention then turned to my husband. Amongst a growing book collection there are still a few gaps to fill. Waterstones had everything I needed to stock up from political novels to historic fiction.
Limited numbers of people means browsing for products is more enjoyable. You’re not competing with others to look at items, queues at the checkout are reduced and the atmosphere is just noticeably friendlier.
After a morning of retail therapy, it was time for a lunch stop. The Arc is not short of places to dine, but as big fans of oriental food we headed to Wagamama.
After checking in on the NHS app we were shown to our seats and placed our orders. Service was quick and the food was enjoyable, especially watching Leo slurp his Udon noodles. Once we had finished eating , we paid using the QR code on our table which meant we didn’t have to wait for the bill and could get back to shopping. If you are like me – on a Christmas mission – this is essential.
If you visit the Arc before Christmas, you can’t miss having your picture taken outside the beautifully lit Christmas displays, especially the gigantic Christmas tree. You may even be lucky enough to meet one of the Arc’s Christmas Elves who man the Santa Post Box, giving kids an opportunity to post a letter to Santa and have one sent back from him in return a few days later.
Finally, a little gift for myself. Pandora, Hobbs and Joules are definitely my go to shops. However, I spotted some cosy winter pyjamas in the Fatface window and with my growing list of festive flicks to watch I felt these would be perfect for lounging around in the house.
In spite of everything going on, there is a relaxed feel throughout the shopping centre. As someone who is cautious about Covid at the moment I felt really comfortable being out and about at the Arc, plus, I enjoyed family time out of the house making Christmas memories that will last for years to come.
Rachel’s top tips for visiting the Arc…
Use the RingGo app when parking at the Cattlemarket (next to the Arc), you can keep an eye on your car park times without using the machines.
The Apex is a great place to take five minutes, they have a café and nappy changing facilities.
We found it quieter in the morning as you miss lunch time rush.
Make a list. If you visit the Arc website you can see all the stores, so planning your shop may make it easier to get all your shopping done, leaving time to enjoy a coffee or snack along the way.
Make a day of it. With tight restrictions in place, shopping is something we are allowed to do in our family bubbles, so have a break from the house. There are plenty of things to do at the Arc this Christmas.