Hertfordshire high streets are in trouble but don’t blame Covid
Hertfordshire high streets and the main shopping areas are often the heart and soul of our towns. A few have thrived over the last ten years but the majority have struggled to fight the rise of online shopping.
Over the last year, it seems a week has not gone by without another well-known high street brand vanishing or dancing with administration. The truth is footfall and sales have been on a downward path for a while and with the impact of the coronavirus shutdown now visible, it is time we had an honest conversion about our high streets.
Hertfordshire high streets are in trouble but don’t blame Covid. Hertfordshire high streets are in trouble but don’t blame internet shopping. Our high streets are in trouble because of YOU!
The blame lies with you… to an extent
You have changed. You have embraced online shopping. Your tastes have changed. Your habits have changed. Your working hours have changed. Your interests have changed. Your beliefs have changed.
And whilst you have been doing all that, our high streets have not been able to change fast enough, thus leaving us with High Streets and shopping areas that simply are not fit for purpose.
It feels wrong to point fingers but the main reason our high streets are struggling is local councils, landlords, and some larger chains have been far too slow to adapt to the above changes – they just don’t seem to be able to work together.
Very few people go into town to visit one place or purchase one item. Amazon has already won that battle and with ‘voice search’ set to change online shopping’, high street retailers and local councils need to focus on the ‘shopping experience’.
5 important steps to improve our high streets
1. Remove the gauntlet
To many Hertfordshire residents, shopping on our high streets has become somewhat of a gauntlet. Up first is the fight to find a parking space. Then you often have the challenge of not stepping in someone’s food from the night before.
Once you have done that and looked up, you have made eye-contact with a chugger and their clipboard – now your motivation to carry on shopping is now below 50%.
They can be very persistent; making the elderly extremely vulnerable and shoppers avoid areas of town where chuggers operate, which hardly helps local retailers.
Visiting the high street should be a positive experience and the best way to keep it positive is to remove the negative aspects of shopping and they fall into two categories… costs and disruption.
2. Spice it up a bit
This is a tough request but an essential one. Locate shops that complement each other near each other. An example of this would be to have a greengrocers next to a bakery or butchers. Whilst landlords are free to rent to whoever they want, it would be beneficial to shoppers if there were particular areas like the food quarter or beauty quarter.
If shoppers cannot satisfy their needs, all in one place, they are motivated to shop online or find a new location. It should come as no surprise that footfall in out-of-town retail parks has increased.
Pop-up stores also offer some variety and can be great experiences for younger shoppers. The Mercedes Pop-up in The Maltings St Albans was very popular around Christmas.
3. Flexible hours
The only person allowed to mention 9 to 5 is Dolly Parton. We no longer live in a nine-to-five world and trading hours need to reflect that. There are many people who, with the right motivation would shop before 9am. What kind of motivation? How about free parking before 10am and entertainment hubs for young children?
4. Reward loyalty
I personally would return to the high street weekly if I knew I was being rewarded for it. I would love to see an App that gives me discounts and unique offers. Online shopping has mastered this and I cannot understand why high streets have not adopted it. One app, scan my receipt/screen at point of purchase, get points and get offers. This could be linked to free Wi-Fi indoors and outdoors.
5. Quality Street food
I touched on the idea of having food quarters earlier and this should not be limited to fast food retailers. Street food has dramatically improved over the last five years in terms of quality and variety. Traditional and world food is becoming popular.
Some of these ideas have been incorporated but they have been implemented in a reactive fashion. If all the stakeholders worked collaboratively in staying ahead of the curve and predicting shopping trends, we would have vibrant high streets and shopping areas to be proud of.
A brand new Bingo Brunch experience is coming to Watford’s Barrio
On 5th November, the newly opened Barrio venue will launch its bingo brunch concept, La Isla Bonita 80s Brunch, in Watford. Translating to ‘The beautiful island’, La Isla Bonita Brunch aims to recreate that perfect tropical holiday feeling, with food and cocktails galore, bingo mayhem and 80s music all afternoon-long.
Already a popular party experience at Barrio Shoreditch, the 80s themed musical brunch is scheduled to run every Saturday from 12pm, and will include a two-course brunch, welcome cocktail and a variety of bottomless drinks (prosecco, spiced rum sangria and Sol beer).
Once guests have finished tucking into a menu of delicious burgers, including Queso Libre as a vegetarian option and Saint and Sinner as the vegan burger plus Barrio Churros, the musical bingo commences, brought to life by a captivating host and nostalgic 80s tunes by Barrio’s best DJs. Brunch goers can expect witty bingo calls, group singalongs and impromptu tableside performances. Prizes for winning the brunch also include a very tasty £100 bar tab.
For £35 per person, over-21s can enjoy 90 minutes of bottomless drinks and then eat, bingo and party until 5pm.
Those interested can book the first La Isla Bonita 80s Brunch at Barrio Watford for a special launch price of £25 (valid for 5th and 12th Nov brunch dates).
More about Barrio Watford
On 20th October 2022, Barrio Familia opened its first out-of-London venue in Watford, bringing Latin-inspired cocktails, authentic Mexican eats, a killer happy hour offering, live entertainment and DJs, plus an immersive 80s Bingo Bottomless Brunch.
Following the announcement of the group’s flagship site, and world’s largest tequila bar, in Covent Garden which is set to launch in early November, Barrio Familia has opened Watford’s first Tequila bar this month.
Bringing the spirit of the Latin Quarter into Watford, the new venue will have space for up to 200 guests to enjoy a brand new, freshly crafted cocktail menu, delicious Mexican inspired food creations, including their signature tacos, and famous Latino party vibes.
The outside terrace is also being turned into Barrio’s popular tropical yard, offering the perfect space for another 80 guests to gather with like-minded ‘amigos’ and sip cocktails, enjoy a meal and experience a fiesta like never before.
Barrio Familia was acquired by Nightcap in November 2021 and has since gone from strength to strength. New venues; Barrio Watford and Barrio Covent Garden will add to their growing portfolio of sites in Shoreditch, Soho, Angel, and Brixton. After opening the first Barrio site in 2007, the group’s vision was to have a Barrio in every big party neighborhood in the UK and Watford will play a huge role in that exciting expansion.
Each of the Barrio Bars sites offer a full-colour, full-flavour experience, and of course, plenty of Tequila. The group plans to open seven days a week and be the perfect new spot in Watford for all occasions, from lunches and daytime drinks to brunches and late night partying.
Jim Robertson, Managing Director of Barrio Familia, commented:
“We are incredibly excited to be taking our Latino party outside of London for the first time. This is a fantastic venue and we can’t wait to welcome the residents of Watford into the Barrio familia and bring the party! I believe Barrio will be a fantastic addition to Watford High Street that will suit all types of occasions and bring a feel good bar that welcomes everyone. We have some amazing things planned for Barrio Watford, so watch this space and get ready for the biggest fiesta in town!”
The Almere Milton Keynes launches Neighbourhood Hero initiative
‘All about the community’, The Almere prides themselves on making living easy for their residents. With residents set to move this month, the exciting new community boasts co-working, communal and event spaces within the building.
The ground floor ‘Gathering Place’ is bookable to the local community and to residents, whilst upstairs on the 11th floor sits an amenity space for residents, where part will be for co-working, roof terraces to hang out, barbeques and yoga classes. Additionally, there will also be a fitted kitchen and dining area which can be closed off for a private dining experience.
The Almere Neighbourhood Hero initiative
With community at its heart, The Almere aims to build relationships and work collaboratively with local businesses to guide residents to the best spots and products in town. The Almere’s new Neighbourhood Hero initiative has handpicked local, and predominantly independent businesses to connect residents with the true value of living in Milton Keynes, highlighting all that there is to offer.
With the recent COVID-19 pandemic having had such an impact on small, independent businesses it’s key to get people back out there and supporting locally. The Neighbourhood Hero initiative is a fantastic example of this, helping businesses to thrive and regain their position within the economy. Current Heroes include Bogota Coffee Co; DeRoka; Fuuudgelife; Suds; Sweat Studios; Doorstep Cocktails; Mollys Pantry; Pup Club; Headonist Hair and Beauty; and Moxy Hotel.
Benefits of the Almere led scheme include:
- Feature on The Almere website, with regular spotlights and tags on social media channels
- Exposure to over 600+ residents, and the ability to send offers and deals to them, without incurring any marketing costs
- Welcomed as a core part of the community, allowing the businesses to use the communal spaces to hold pop-up events for residents and the local community
- Include collateral in the ‘move in packs’ for new residents, for free
- Invited to all community events at The Almere, and work together on collaborative event activations
Community Manager, Holly Birmingham explains, “Community is so important to us at The Almere – it is all about meaningful connections both within our own four walls and the wider neighbourhood. At The Almere, we aren’t just a building, we are a new community in the heart of Milton Keynes. We want to support the brilliant local businesses around us, create lasting relationships and of course, show our residents the best our town has to offer.”
The new scheme offers an exciting experience for local businesses to work on an exclusive basis with the upcoming, Milton Keynes hotspot, offer discounts to residents and in turn help show the rest of the UK what Milton Keynes has to offer!
About The Almere
A pioneering new rental community for Milton Keynes, The Almere, is a collection of 294 rental apartments built across two buildings with neighbourhood and outstanding service experience at its core.
St Albans Comedy Extravaganza returns to Verulamium Park in July
St Albans Comedy Garden presented by heycar is set to light up Verulamium Park this summer with a magnificent series of open-air shows from 27-31st July!
Starring legendary BAFTA and Perrier Award winner DYLAN MORAN, the guv’nor himself AL MURRAY, multi-award winning SARA PASCOE, the Last Leg’s ROSIE JONES, Father Ted star ARDAL O’HANLON, lo-fi hero DAVID O’DOHERTY and many more huge names performing at this year’s astounding set of open-air shows.
St Albans Comedy Garden line-up
Stand-up favourites are out in force too with cult poet / comic TIM KEY, German Comedy Ambassador HENNING WEHN, observational master ED BYRNE, Afterlife star KERRY GODLIMAN, Taskmaster champ LOU SANDERS, Edinburgh Comedy Award winner JOHN ROBINS, Netflix star JOEL DOMMETT, the inimitable REGINALD D HUNTER to name a few.
Alongside established names sit some of the brightest breakthrough talent such as the acclaimed CELYA AB, stand-up phenomenon FATIHA EL-GHORRI and the award-winning ESTHER MANITO, fast rising TADIWA MAHLUNGE all making their St Albans debut.
What to expect at St Albans Comedy Garden
Following last summer’s huge sell-out first edition St Albans Comedy Garden returns with another astounding programme of stand-up comedy presented in a fully-seated open-air theatre in the Park’s beautiful Water Meadow.
This year’s comedy extravaganza will once again be brimful with bars serving up a tastemaker selection of craft beers, cocktails and more, plus an array of street-food stalls from the leading lights of the local street food scene.
Tickets are expected to fly as comedy-lovers from St Albans and beyond grab the chance to see these masterfully curated shows, each featuring a host of critically-acclaimed stars guaranteeing a hit of absolute entertainment in the heart of the summer.
The sibling team behind the Comedy Garden, Cass Randolph and Will Briggs of 57 Festivals, can’t wait to return to St Albans. Cass said “We’re thrilled with this year’s line-up and to be back in Verulamium Park, we had such a great first year last summer, the audiences were an absolute riot, far livelier than we had expected! The acts really feed off that kind of energy and in turn give incredible performances.”
Will added “We have some outstanding acts joining us this year, i’m especially looking forward to seeing Dylan Moran headline our opening night and can’t wait to watch stand-out newcomers CELYA AB and FATIHA EL-GHORRI on the big stage.”
This year’s event is partnered with heycar, Chief Commercial Officer Karen Hilton said: “With this year’s Comedy Garden returning to St Albans, it’s shaping up to be an incredible, feel-good summer. We have so much laughter to catch up on after the last few years and I can’t think of a better way to do it. The line-up is truly world-class, and we’re particularly looking forward to seeing the incredible Joel Dommett in action. heycar is honoured to be sponsoring this incredible event and we can’t wait to see everyone in St Albans this July!”
St Albans Comedy Garden tickets
Get your tickets now and be part of this year’s magnificent St Albans Comedy Garden! Visit the website to find out more www.stalbanscomedygarden.co.uk