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.
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
The Chequers in Woolmer Green reopens after refurbishment
Wells & Co’s Hertfordshire based pub, The Chequers, is opening its doors after an extensive refurbishment. Completed works include an entirely refreshed bar and dining area, redecorated throughout to create a modern and chic look and feel to the pub located in the civil parish village of Woolmer Green. The cosy interior boasts an intimate lounge area, large dining area and an extensive garden makeover inclusive of heated spaces and high table fire pits, perfect for those late-Summer evenings.
Upstairs has been reconfigured to make room for four en-suite bedrooms for guests to book, as well as a private dining room holding up to 20 people. The new dining room is perfect for all event needs, whether its a private party, private function or even to host a work meeting.
The updated food menu features seasonal and fresh dishes inclusive of much loved pub classics like fish and chips or the ever popular 21-day aged beef burger, where the team will also be donating 25p of every burger sold to local primary school St Michael’s. Aloingside the classics the full dining menu at The Chequers includes more indulgent dishes such as cajun sweet potato, okra, and black-eyed pea gumbo, wild porcini mushroom, truffle and ricotta filled mezzaluna pasta and new daily specials.
There is also a great new range of drinks behind the bar including a range of tasty Brewpoint beers brewed just down the road in Bedford, as well as a full wine and spirits list for guests to enjoy.
Greg Knox, General Manager for the Wells & Co. site said, “The Chequers has, quite simply put, been a transformational refurbishment. The pub is ready, our food is prepped, drinks will be flowing, and our team are on hand to welcome the people of Woolmer Green and beyond, back to their much-loved pub. I can’t wait to personally welcome everyone back.”
To book a room or table at The Chequers visit the website here: https://chequerswoolmergreen.co.uk/
What’s on at Waddesdon this Summer between May and June
May half-term will see the return of our ever-popular Colourscape as well as the chance for children to discover the animals of Waddesdon with a brand new Birds and Beasts family trail.
In June, outdoor theatre will also be returning to Waddesdon’s lawns. Visitors can enjoy an evening of Shakespearean comedy as well as a performance of The Teapot Prince, a contemporary reimagining of a lost 18th-century ballet that hasn’t been staged for over 280 years!
Eythrope Walled Garden Tour
Every Wed from 18 May – 19 Oct, 10.15am & 1.15pm
Discover the four-acre walled garden, glasshouses and orchard at Eythrope, the private Rothschild garden. Visits are by guided tour only and include a light meal with savoury and sweet elements inspired by the produce from Eythrope.
Adult £50. Includes a meal in the Manor Restaurant, free Grounds admission and shuttle bus.
An Italian Feast with Frescobaldi
Sat 28 May, 7pm
Marchesi Frescobaldi is one of Italy’s most celebrated winemakers, and their global ambassador will be hosting a magical evening at Waddesdon. Wine-lovers can sample a glass of Frescobaldi sparkling wine in the atmospheric cellars, followed by a delightful five-course dinner served with carefully-selected wines.
£99.50 per person (over-18s only)
May Half-Term Sat 28 May – Sun 5 Jun (inc Mon 30 & Tue 31), 10.30am-4.30pm
This May half-term, an immersive experience of colour, light, space and music lands on Waddesdon’s lawns. Returning to Waddesdon for its eighth year, Colourscape is for visitors of all ages and promises an extraordinary experience you will not forget.
Advance booking recommended. Adult £6, Child £4; plus normal Grounds admission applies.
May Half-Term at Waddesdon
Birds and Beasts trail
Sat 28 May – Sun 5 Jun (inc Mon 30 & Tue 31), 10am-4pm
Enjoy fresh air and family fun this May half-term. Discover the animals of Waddesdon with a new outdoor Birds and Beasts trail, adventure in the Woodland Playground and then refuel with a delicious family picnic.
£3.50 per trail (inc souvenir), plus normal Grounds admission applies. One trail per child
Cellar visit and tasting
Every Fri, Sat & Sun from 15 Apr – 31 May, 12noon
Join one of Waddesdon’s wine experts for a short tour of the atmospheric wine cellars, which house over 15,000 bottles of Rothschild wine, before an informal tasting of two Rothschilds wines.
£7.50 per person (over-18s only), plus normal Grounds admission applies
What’s On at Waddesdon in June 2022
The Teapot Prince
Thu 16 & Fri 17 June, 6-9pm
A contemporary reimagining of the lost 18th-century French Ballet des Porcelaines—The Teapot Prince—will be performed in the fairy-tale grounds of Waddesdon Manor, bringing to life a story of magic, desire and exotic entanglement.
Tickets include a talk by the ballet company, exclusive access to the Manor’s west galleries and a chance to preview an Edmond du Waal display until 8.30pm.
Adult £32, Child £16
As You Like It – The Lord Chamberlain’s Men
Thu 23 June, 6pm gates open
One of the UK’s finest touring theatre companies, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, invites you to join them once again for an evening of sparkling Shakespearean comedy in the grounds of Waddesdon Manor.
Adult £20.50, Child £11
Dinner with Gusbourne Estate Wines
Sat 25 Jun, 7pm
Celebrate the wines of one of England’s most renowned and innovative winemakers at Waddesdon. Enjoy a sparkling aperitif in the atmospheric wine cellars, followed by a delicious five-course dinner served with wines from the Gusbourne Estate’s wonderful portfolio.
£99.50 per person (over-18s only)