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.
Love Brownies opens new cafe and shop in St Albans
Love Brownies, a Yorkshire Dales-inspired chocolate brownie company, is to open a beautiful café and brownie shop in the heart of St Albans,creating a number of jobs and adding a premium brand to St Albans’ bustling high street.
Established in 2009, Love Brownies is known for its decadent brownies and delicious seasonal menus. Originating in the Yorkshire Dales, the brand has a growing network of brownie shops and cafés, with St Albans being the fifteenth to open in the UK. So what makes Love Brownies so outrageously delicious? It’s no secret: they bake each one individually, by hand, using the best ingredients possible.
The Love Brownies Range
The new Love Brownies shop in St Albans will offer a mouth watering menu of indulgent handmade chocolate brownies in a variety of tempting flavours, magnificent brownie milkshakes (with vegan alternatives), a range of premium, freshly-brewed coffees and the bold flavours of Northern Bloc ice cream.
Love Brownies’ Head Baker and Owner, Chantal Teal said: “The St Albans shop will be our first to open in Hertfordshire and we’re so excited to bring our award-winning brownies and delicious Dales-inspired menu to a brand new audience.
Inside Love Brownies St Albans
The inside of a Love Brownies is a unique blend of a cafe and shop. St Albans residents can pop in to the cafe for a drink and one of their fabulous brownies. Love Brownies merchandise and products can also be purchased in store. These include Love Brownies tea towels, Love Brownies mugs and Love Brownies aprons.
For those on the go, a delicious ‘Dales Kitchen’ breakfast and lunch menu with pastries and jam-packed sandwiches will also be available for St Albans residents.
Love Brownies’ Head Baker and Owner, Chantal Teal also said “The shop is in a fantastic location and we’re anticipating a busy summer! We’re so pleased to be bringing business into the area during a time that has been so difficult for so many and can’t wait to be a part of the St Albans community.”
Where to find Love Brownies in St Albans?
The new Love Brownies café will be located at Number 1, Market Place and will open to the public at 8am on Wednesday 21 July. For more information about Love Brownies or to see a sample menu visit www.lovebrownies.co.uk or follow @lovebrowniesbakery on Facebook and Instagram.
St Albans Comedy Garden brings laughs to Verulamium Park
After a difficult 18 months of lockdowns and restrictions, St Albans residents can look forward to a laugh in the park as St Albans Comedy Garden brings laughs to Verulamium Park.
The all-new St Albans Comedy Garden promises the ultimate remedy this summer with five nights of stupendous stand-up comedy starring DARA O’BRIAIN, SARA PASCOE, ALAN DAVIES, TOM ALLEN, AISLING BEA, ROB BECKETT, JOSH WIDDICOMBE and many more in the glorious surroundings of Verulamium Park.
St Albans Comedy Garden line up
From Wednesday 28th July to Sunday 1st August comedy-lovers from St Albans and beyond will be treated to a dazzling array of stand-up superstars including the multi-award winning SARA PASCOE, the glorious DARA O’BRIAIN, observational wizard JOSH WIDDICOMBE, the stupendous ALAN DAVIES, riotous TOM ALLEN and the magnetic ROB BECKETT to name but a few.
Each show will be bursting with incredible acts featuring the very best names in stand-up like Netflix star PHIL WANG, British Comedy Award winner AISLING BEA, one-liner king MILTON JONES, Taskmaster champ LOU SANDERS, the undisputed queen of ventriloquism NINA CONTI, podcast heroes ED GAMBLE and JOHN ROBINS, stand-up champion REGINALD D HUNTER and the award-winning SINDHU VEE alongside fast-rising breakthrough talent like MAISIE ADAM, SARAH KEYWORTH and DARREN HARRIOT plus many (many!) more – all guaranteeing some much-needed uplifting hilarity for 2021.
This series of magnificent mixed-bill shows will be presented in an open-air theatre set in St Alban’s beautiful Verulamium Park. The comedy extravaganza will be brim full with pop-up bars serving craft beers, summer-styled cocktails and more to wash down tasty morsels from the leading lights of the local street-food scene.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic the Comedy Garden has been specially designed to reflect the Government’s Roadmap, with added flexibility should the event need to be adapted to suit current guidelines.
Laughs in Verulamium Park
All shows will take place in a fully-seated open-air theatre with tickets sold in multiples of two, these key features are designed to ensure a smooth transition should social distancing need to be introduced across the event. If necessary the theatre-style seating will be transformed into socially-distanced seating plots and walk-up bars and street-food stalls will be replaced with a deliver-to-seat drink and snack service.
St Albans Comedy Garden tickets
Tickets for some of the shows are already sold out. Tickets for Wednesday 28th July with headline act Josh Widdicombe are sold out. The same applies for the late show on Saturday 31st July headlined by Tom Allen and Sunday’s 3.30pm show headlined by Dara Ó Briain. All other tickets are available at this time. For more info on tickets, click here.
About St Albans Comedy Garden
The team behind the Comedy Garden, 57 Festivals, have already successfully delivered a covid-secure event with their Greenwich Comedy Festival in September 2020.
This new St Albans event is the latest venture from the London-based comedy event company run by sibling-team Will Briggs and Cass Randolph. The pair have spent the last decade building a reputation for delivering meticulous comedy programming in boutique-festival settings.
Starting back in 2009 with the Capital’s critically acclaimed Greenwich Comedy Festival, held annually at the National Maritime Museum, the pair went on to introduce their Comedy Garden event to Bristol in 2011, followed by Brighton in 2019, and they are now incredibly excited to be bringing their winning formula to the cultural heart of Hertfordshire.
Cass say “The live industry has had a tough time of late and so we feel very lucky to have been able to reimagine our events to suit these challenging times, and we’re especially proud to be introducing this new event.”
Will adds: “There’s no doubt that everyone deserves some excellent live entertainment and we can’t wait to bring exactly that to our new St Albans audience. We’re working closely with the local council and our suppliers to make sure we deliver an event that is safe and enjoyable for everyone – and above all very funny!”
This summer’s event is all set to be a rib-tickling remedy to the past year, so get your tickets now and be part of the first-ever St Albans Comedy Garden! Visit the website to find out more www.stalbanscomedygarden.co.uk
Wendover welcomes Bel & The Dragon at The Red Lion opening
Today marks the opening of Bel & The Dragon at The Red Lion in the historic market town of Wendover. Located in Buckinghamshire, it becomes the seventh site in the popular Bel & The Dragon group.
Located in the centre of Wendover, in the foothills of the Chilterns, the new country inn will emulate Bel & The Dragon’s distinctly cosy and classic manner and will be managed by Matt Coupland, an experienced General Manager.
Inside Bel & The Dragon at The Red Lion Wendover
With 23 beautiful en suite bedrooms and an extensive selection of fine wine and British food, Bel & The Dragon at The Red Lion will be a sought-after destination for weekday and weekend breaks. Bel & The Dragon at The Red Lion is a historic grade II-listed coaching inn with stunning features dating back to 1669 and possibly earlier, with much of the original building still standing.
Bel & The Dragon at The Red Lion has been sensitively restored this year, with the aim of providing a premium, contemporary English inn, with sophisticated charm and historic character and also offers alfresco dining with 160 covers in a beautifully created covered and heated patio area.
Dining at Bel & The Dragon Wendover
With an emphasis on provenance and quality, our team of talented chefs have created a menu full of modern adaptations of simple classics. Think Devonshire mussels in a cider and bacon broth to start, followed by sustainable Cornish fish and crayfish pie or salt-baked saddle of lamb with seasonal vegetables to share, as well as a range of daily specials.
The pudding menu will be full of theatre, including the Bel & The Dragon classic of a flaming Baked Alaska, served with salted caramel ice cream, providing a perfect end to any meal.
As with all Bel & The Dragon sites, Bel & The Dragon at The Red Lion will offer an outstanding selection of wines at competitive prices. In addition, the comprehensive From the Cellar list includes some of the greatest vintages of the world’s most sought-after wines, and the use of the Coravin system allows guest to sample rare wines by the glass.
Word from the General Manager
Matt Coupland, who is originally from Lincoln, moved down to join Fuller’s eight years ago at The Paper Mill at Apsley Lock near Hemel Hempstead. After completing the Fuller’s Management Training Programme, and having acted as a holding manager at The Paper Mill, he moved to The Six Bells at Thame for his first general manager appointment. He subsequently moved to The Red Lion in Wendover and has played a key role in its transformation to a Bel & The Dragon.
Matt said: “This is a dream come true for me – it’s a fantastic site, in a great area, and Bel & The Dragon is an outstanding brand. I can’t wait to bring our fantastic menu and excellent wine list to the great and good of Wendover, and our stunning bedrooms to those who want to come and visit.
“I’m really looking forward to welcoming back locals and visitors alike and to working with the local neighbourhood to ensure Bel & The Dragon at The Red Lion takes a place at the very heart of the community.”
Directions to Bel & The Dragon at The Red Lion Wendover
Located in the centre of Wendover, in the foothills of the Chilterns, Bel & The Dragon at The Red Lion is an easy commute from within Beds, Bucks & Herts.
Bel & The Dragon at The Red Lion address
9 High St, Wendover, Aylesbury HP22 6DU