Bedford High Street sign post

Five things that need to change to improve Bedford High Street

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.

The Arcade on Bedford High Street

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.

Closed retailer Beales on Bedford High Street
Closed retailer Beales on Bedford High Street

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.

Hemel Hempstead Marlowes vinyl wrap

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.

Would Bedford benefit from being pedestrianised?

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.

About Lee Hall

Lover of all things FAST. If I am not in the office, you can find me near a track or under a car. I also work with great people in TrendLife's Editorial team.

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  1. High Streets are dead. Use the shops to creat homes for young people who do not need cars as they are close to station shops and buses.

  2. Sell off the huge amount of storage above shops to be turned into apartments. Encourage the opening of restaurants in the centre, instead of just shops ( ie where M&S was, etc). At night when the shops are shut, there needs to be life there, not just the High Street. Having people living in the new apartments there will generate restaurant business.

  3. Totally agree with bringing back the nightlife. People will need entertainment post-covid19.

  4. These are some fantastic suggestions, and I totally agree with apartment blocks in the old big store units. Have these ideas been put to, or considered by the council?

  5. I don’t know if they have been considered but I do know the mayor and others read feedback on our website. The bigger question is do they have the same objectives?

  6. Move the shops in the High St. inside the large closed shops in the centre .Beales,M&S.Make them into miniature shopping malls

  7. Theresa Saunders

    I think one of the big shops needs to be a community centre/information/ medical centre/ cafe/ exercise hub, where people can go everyday to socialise and exercise.
    Loneliness was a huge problem before covid, so it has probably hit a new massive high now.
    Such a centre can really positively impact the community as older people have a reason to leave the house and younger people can learn new skills from interaction with them by serving them in the cafe and actually talking to the clients. They could cook together, knit etc. Senior people could bring something to a younger persons life to make them still feel valuable by passing on knowledge.
    Bedford is a decent place to live and we should lead on looking after the older generation rather than leaving them isolated in their homes, bored and lonely. Bridge the generation gap! A lot of youngers love spending time with to their grandparents and that generation so let’s use the opportunity to make this happen.

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