There is simply no denying that Bedford High Street is not the shopping destination that it once was. This is not a problem unique to Bedford. Many high streets across Bedfordshire have suffered in the past decade as shopping habits have changed. But of all the high streets across Bedfordshire, Bedford High Street can easily turn the tide of decreasing shoppers. We visited Bedford High Street last week and looked at five things that need to change.
1. A clean street is a happy street
The quote is actually ‘A clean home is a happy home‘ but the sentiment still applies. Granted, our visit was in the middle of a pandemic but nonetheless, this has been a common complaint from locals and shoppers. Bedford’s high street, in general, is pretty clean and the vast majority of local shoppers do their bit. There are a few however who don’t understand that cleanliness is next to godliness; such as the residents living above the entrance to The Arcade.
The Arcade in Bedford is home to some amazing independent stores such as Boutique Planet and Arcadia Sweet Shop. The last thing they need in the current climate is unthoughtful local residents using the window ledge over the entrance as a dump.
2. Cover empty stores
Store closures happen. They happen everywhere from The Avenue des Champs-Élysées to the West End’s Oxford Street. Many high streets have seen closures with the likes of Next and Monsoon closing their doors. Empty shops are not just eyesores; they suck the life out of high streets. Other towns have been very proactive in turning long term empty shops into art galleries, startup hubs, and even libraries.
Bedford has its fair share of empty stores and they need to be utilised. At the very least, the windows should be used to promote positive messaging about Bedford and the local community. Beales in Bedford has been closed for some time after falling into administration. This is prime advertising space that could be proactively put to good use. Marlowes in Hemel Hempstead has utilised this closed retail unit to promote local amenities. It makes a world of difference.
3. Focus on fashion, food, and fun
Post-Covid, Bedford High Street will change forever. Whether it is for good or bad is dependent on the high street’s stakeholders. Many fashion outlets are planning on using smaller stores as collection points. Increasing fulfillment costs and high returns are taking the shine off online shopping. Modern bars, quality street vendors and a focus on child-friendly fun/entertainment should be the top priorities.
4. Close traffic to the High Street
Slightly controversial but the entire high street should be pedestrianised during peak shopping hours. Quality street vendors, places to sit, and safe areas for kids to roam will start to entice shoppers back. As previously mentioned, empty stores can be used to offer unique shopping experiences. With a temporary car-free zone, our suggestion of a focus on fashion, food, and fun could be a reality.
5. Diverse family restaurants
Bedford has a diverse community that should be represented on the high street. Opening on Saturday 1st August, CaRumBar will offer authentic Jamaican cuisine in a family-friendly setting. Independent restaurants offering a different dining experience will help shape the outlook for Bedford’s high street.
What would you like to see change? Leave your thoughts in the comments.