Following on from our recent look at ‘Five things that need to change to improve Bedford High Street‘, it is clear that locals are extremely divided on what should happen to some of the vacant shops. One particular shop located near to the High Street has remained permanently closed since mid-march.
Beales, one of Britain’s oldest department stores went into administration at the start of 2020; resulting in the closure of over 20 stores. Beales in Bedford was formerly the home of Braggins but that all changed in 1982 when the store was bought as part of an acquisition by Bournemouth based Beales. Fast forward 38 years and the building is now an empty shell.
So, what would you like to replace Beales in Bedford
We have grouped and shortlisted some of the thoughts from locals to put this question to the vote. Share your thoughts on what should replace Beales in Bedford.
1. Artisan/handcraft hub
“Turn the likes of Beales into small bespoke or handcrafted product shops and keep rents down and that way it will attract clientele as they can’t buy the products online cheaper. Encourage new enterprises with attractive start-up grants, not loans so entrepreneurs don’t need to gamble to set up businesses. Invest in the youngsters too. Don’t turn the town into flats as that won’t bring in business and will disrupt the feel a town centre needs as a hub of eclectic shops” – Lucy Fox
2. Community market
“I’ve got an idea. Let’s face it, the prospect of committing to full-time business rates means retail is very unappealing. Why would a successful online trader ever make the leap into a physical store? However, why not operate timeshares. So, carve up Beales into lots of little stalls/shops. Create standard fit wall fittings which each trader can have their branding and info printed on, simply slip and slide in and out of the hangings when you are trading.
Then promote to your customers when you’ll be there. So Mondays and Tuesdays stall 1 is Sarah’s Soaps, and then Wed and Thurs it’s Bob’s Bangers. This way consumers experience variety and feel good about supporting local businesses. And sellers don’t have to put everything on the line to sell in the town centre. The Bedford Community Market you could call it. You heard it here first people!’ – Kieran Young
3. Modern library
Expand the library into Beales, libraries aren’t just about books, there are computers, exercise classes, children’s activities etc etc. With regards to books there are lots that are not on display but hidden from view in the stack or reserve collection. – Rosemary Johnson
“Beales and Marks & Spencer are great buildings and part of Bedford’s history I would not want them destroyed. Keep the facades and makeover the insides as flats so that people can live in the town. Keep the streets/pavements clean as they are very grubby from traffic fumes.” Valerie Harper-Skelton