2020 was a tough year for high streets across the UK. Many small independents shut their doors during the lockdowns to never open again. High streets across the Three Counties lost big name retailers such as Debenhams, Monsoon and Beales.
It is impossible to put the blame entirely on Covid-19. Some of these businesses were in decline for sometime but what does their disappearance mean for our high streets? Can the high streets across Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire survive more of the same in 2021?
With more of the UK entering tier 4 and talks of another national lockdown, local business owners are expecting to temporarily close their doors once again. Once again, some of these businesses may never reopen leaving gaping holes on our high streets.
We have looked at some of the larger towns/shopping areas in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire to see how each will cope after another year of Covid-19.
High streets and towns that will bounce back after Covid-19
Watford – Because of its proximity to London and being home to Intu Watford, Watford’s high street and shopping disrtrict will bounce back fairly quickly. Watford’s nightlife will also bounce back when things return to normal and this will help the local retailers.
It is also important to remember that Watford is home to a number of service-based companies. When their employees return to their offices, lunch breaks and after-work browsing will benefit local retailers.
There are a number of factors that point to St Albans faring better than most. From a higher ratio of independents retailers vs chains to the higher levels of disposable incomes of local residents, St Albans residents are happy to shop local and pay more for the experience. We don’t expect much change in St Albans after normality returns.
Another market town with a large number of independents, Hitchin residents like to shop local and the town benefits from out-of-town shoppers. Things will return to normal pretty quickly for Hitchin. From its outdoor offerings to its unique independents, Hitchin has plenty to get the streets busy again. Expect to see new retailers looking to make an impact like Hitchin’s Chicken George did when they opened in the middle of the pandemic.
Milton Keynes is pretty much too big to fail. Did you know that Milton Keynes has the 5th highest number of business startups in the UK? For every store that closes in 2021, there will be someone willing to take the risk. High Street retailer Next opening a Beauty and Home concept store in the former Debenhams store is an example of this. Yes, There were some closures in Milton Keynes last year, for example Pizza Express but most empty units won’t stay closed for long when the lockdowns are over.
High streets and towns that will struggle after Covid-19
The largest town in Bedfordshire should in theory be the most resilient. But Luton has been masking a lot of problems for a long time. The Mall Luton still hasn’t departed from the legacy of The Arndale. Aside from some new signage, the Mall is exactly the same layout as The Arndale and contains pretty much the same retailers you see in every other shopping centre.Overall, The Mall Luton is a good place to shop but outside of The Mall is not welcoming enough for families and out-of-town shoppers. Encouraging new shoppers to venture outside of The Mall is going to be an uphill battle without updating the adjacent areas.
With an ageing population and shortage of unique independent shops, Hemel Hempstead could struggle in 2021. Great efforts are being made to improve the shopping district with The Marlowees looking very modern but it desperately needs new blood in the form of forward-thinking trendsetting retailers. Decent parking and good transport links are great but further changes will be need to get out-of-town to take the plunge.
If things return back to normal in the Spring/Summer, Hemel’s outdoor area need to be utilised to help encourage shoppers back. Good quality outdoor food and entertainment with temporary setting is a must for High Streets going forward.
There is no denying that stevenage as a shopping destination has been struggling for some time. Stevenage is far from the slum Sir Lewis Hamilton described it as but it could do with some modernising. This is happening as part of the Stevenage Better regeneration project. The big issue is the speed of these projects. With most of the construction industry still working throughout the lockdowns, there is no better time for ambitious plans to modernise areas such like Queensway North and the Bus Interchange.
We already discussed what needs to happen to improve Bedford High Street. Whilst this list is not comprehensive, it does cover the key problems with Bedford High Street and many other high streets across Bedfordshire.
In terms of retail , Bedford cannot compete with the likes of Milton Keynes so the High Street stakeholders need to focus on what Bedford did best (for a while). Bedford needs to look at its once thriving nightlife and entertainment sector. Split the High Street and surround roads into districts and do more to invite local entrepreneurs.
Another area with an ageing population and lack of unique independent shops. Dunstable High Street has been on a decline for sometime. There is no way of getting away from it. Most of the lower-end chains will survive but the revival of commutable towns and ease of parking at out of town retail parks will add more pressure on dated high streets in towns like Dunstable and Bedford.
Petrolheadonism Live pulls in to Knebworth House
Petrolheadonism Live is the brand new, ultimate celebration of all things automotive. The huge two-day family event, set in the beautiful grounds of Knebworth House in Stevenage on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th September 2021, will welcome up to 10,000 people per day and bring over 1,000 cars together, including Supercars, Classics, Americana, Highly Modified and much more. Guests will be awestruck at the Hypercar Enclosure with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a stunning selection of exclusive, cutting-edge cars worth over £50 million.
What’s happening at Petrolheadonism Live?
With special guests including Guest of Honour, Richard Rawlings (owner of Gas Monkey Garage and star of Discovery’s Fast ‘n’ Loud TV show) flying in from the USA for his first ever UK automotive event, the Lewis Hamilton Petronas Formula One Simulator, the Superbike enclosure, free entry to Knebworth’s adventure playground, and a host of other entertainment, this is an unmissable weekend for petrol heads and their families.
Petrolheadonism Live has well over 50 car clubs already confirmed to attend. Enthusiasts will be able to engage with car owners to learn more about the incredible array of classics and modern classics on show. Then the Hypercar Enclosure awaits, featuring cars such as the Koenegsigg Regera worth £3.5m, the Mercedes 300SL Gullwing worth £4m, and the Ferrari F50 worth £1.65m to name but a few. Totalling over a staggering £50m of unforgettable, breath-taking cars, the Hypercar Enclosure presented by Zach’s Garage is a true highlight of the Petrolheadonism Live weekend.
The Main Arena will provide entertainment throughout the event and hosts the ‘Petrolheadonism Elite 2021’ competition. Richard Rawlings will be on stage each day and will also judge the competition as seven incredible cars from seven different classes parade across the catwalk each day giving guests the chance to check out these elite cars up close.
Petrolheadonism Live: Guest of Honour Richard Rawlings
Richard Rawlings will be speaking on the Live Stage and making special guest appearances throughout the day, together with his much-loved sidekick, Big Chris. In 2002 Richard Rawlings opened Gas Monkey Garage creating automobiles for customers worldwide. The enterprise became the subject of Discovery Channel’s ‘Fast ‘n’ Loud’ series from 2012 – 2020 turning Rawlings into one of the global automotive scene’s biggest and most influential characters.
He now co-hosts Garage Rehab on Discovery and the Gas Monkey Garage brand extends across a variety of products and genres, even an energy drink. There’s no bigger name out there for petrolheads and his first ever UK car show is a special moment, not to be missed.
For those who have ever watched Lewis Hamilton race and declared ‘I could do that’, the Lewis Hamilton Petronas Formula One Simulator will be at the event. Guests can experience the same training regime as Lewis Hamilton himself and taste the thrilling speeds of Formula One.
The wonderful charity Sporting Bears will also be at Petrolheadonism Live, providing Dream Rides in some amazing cars to raise money for wishes that will be granted by Rays of Sunshine Children’s Charity – every penny of every dream ride will add to the £2.5million the Sporting Bears have already raised to date.
There are few better locations than Knebworth House for Petrolheadonism Live. The event will take place right next to the Grade II listed, Tudor Gothic style country house, spreading out to its 250 acre deer park. Knebworth House has hosted huge concerts from the likes of The Rolling Stones, Oasis, and Elton John, and now prepares to welcome the UK’s most fanatical petrol heads and some of the world’s most spectacular and desirable cars.
For those guests bringing kids, the ticket includes on-site parking but also free entrance to the Knebworth adventure playground where kids can enjoy a zip wire, dinosaur trail with 70 life-sized dinosaurs, a maze, water features and much more. When it’s time to recharge the batteries there are plenty of street food and drinks traders on site (and a licensed bar for mum and dad).
Petrolheadonism Live tickets
Tickets for the two-day event cost just £39.50 + b/f (kids £15 + b/f) or £25 + b/f for one day (kids £11.50 + b/f). Available from Event Brite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/general-admission-spectator-tickets-petrolheadonism-live-tickets-157878804755
STRYKK™ It Lucky and Win a Year’s Supply of STRYKK™ Not Vanilla V*dka
TrendLife have teamed up with STRYKK™, The distilled non-alcoholic spirits brand to offer you a chance to win one years supply of STRYKK™ ahead of our next lunchNbloggers event which will feature a STRYKKTM cocktail making masterclass.
Our upcoming lunchNbloggers event will be taking place in the picturesque village of Woburn: Home to Woburn Safari Park, Woburn Abbey and Woburn Open Gardens.
STRYKKTM was the first non-alcoholic brand to replicate the flavour and attitude of the mainstream spirits, and is now once again leading from the front by introducing a non-alcoholic vanilla vodka alternative.
The new flavour infused with Madagascan vanilla beans, is the perfect component needed to ‘STRYKK’ the UKs #1 cocktail – a Passionfruit Martini! The carefully crafted STRYKKTM distillation process is 100% natural with no sugar, no fat, no carbs and no artificial flavouring. As with all other STRYKKTM spirits, NOT VANILLA V*DKA is both vegan and gluten free.
STRYKK™ It Lucky Competition
For a chance to win a year’s supply of STRYKK™ Non-Alcoholic Spirits, simply tell us in less than 100 words which celebrity you would like to share a STRYKK™ cocktail with. The lucky winner will receive a case of twelve bottles from STRYKK™ – This equates to one bottle a month and will keep the cocktails flowing with friends and family. The Competition runs until 30th September 23:59, Winners will be announced on Friday 1st October via email.
Distilled and bottled in the UK, STRYKK™ is a London based non-alcoholic spirits brand featuring an impressive range of the highest quality alternative-alcohol options. STRYKK™ was the first brand to mimic the mainstream spirits and was meticulously developed for over two years in collaboration with top bartenders.
The expert STRYKK™ team carefully reconstructed flavours of spiced rum, London dry gin and traditional vodka and created NOT G*N, NOT R*M and NOT VODKA, providing the best non-alcohol alternative without missing out on any of the flavour or notes and aroma’s – STRYKK™ truly has all of the sprit but none of the alcohol. Learn more about STRYKK™ on strykk.com or by visiting the STRYKK™ Facebook page.
Each of our lunchNbloggers events is totally unique. Of the many restaurants and locations we visit, each has offered a unique setting and experience. The structure consists of an introduction, sampling, a tour of the venue and a masterclass. You can watch one of our wine tasting masterclass to get a taste of our events.
Our interactive masterclasses are themed for the destinations we visit. Other factors like our guest speaker are taken into consideration. This means each event is unique in every way. If you are interested in attending a lunchNbloggers event, visit it lunchNbloggers.com.
Unmissable Hertfordshire events this season and beyond
It feels refreshing to tell you about all the wonderful Hertfordshire event coming up this season. We have waited a long time for it but there is plenty more fun and entertainment to be had! Not only will this season be full of your favourite walks, bike rides, and trips to the best restaurants in Hertfordshire, but with the suggestions we’ve got below you’ll have a Summer to remember.
Summer Evenings in Paradise
While the title of this one echoes the Maldives or Bora Bora, Hertfordshire’s very own Paradise Wildlife Park is opening its doors late every Friday and Saturday until 28th August. Sip an ice-cold refreshment with friends and family as you experience the animals in a truly unique light, all while enjoying a packed programme of accompanying entertainment including African drummers, acoustic sets, wildlife stilt walkers and face painting.
For more information about Hertfordshire events at Paradise Wildlife Park, click here – https://www.pwpark.com/events/summer-evenings-in-paradise/
St Albans & Harpenden’s Markets
If you’re a local or staying in St Albans or Harpenden for a day or two, you can make the most of it by heading to some of Hertfordshire’s finest markets. With a big focus on sustainability in the homeware world, you might find your next cooking utensil or piece of furniture at the St Albans Vintage Market.
If you’re looking to eat well and indulge in a weekend treat, there are numerous Farmers Markets serving summer produce in Harpenden. And be sure to support your community with a visit to the Inside Out Pop-Up Market which is chock-full of local traders and food stalls.
For full details on Hertfordshire markets and more, discover the full calendar here: https://www.enjoystalbans.com/whats-on/
Home Farm Elstree
If you’ve been missing international and national festivals, you don’t have to travel far for this one! Despite its name of Home Farm, this one isn’t via Zoom. Enjoy a number of handpicked events from alfresco dining experiences and live theatre to circus camps and outdoor adventures for your little ones. Get booking for some of your ultimate summer event days and evenings! We are pretty excited for ‘Comedy in The Woods’ starring Shaparak Khorsandi, Simon Brodkin, Matt Richardson and Esther Manito.
For full details on events at Home Farm and other Hertfordshire events, please visit https://www.athomefarm.live/at-home-farm-whats-on
The Classic Motor Show
The Classic Motor Show at Knebworth Park is one for all the car enthusiasts. Taking place between 29th and 30th August at Knebworth Park, you’ll have the chance to see parades of classic favourites which strolling across the beautiful surroundings of Knebworth. Expect to see sports cars, saloons, American muscle cars, motorbikes and even military vehicles in a series of static displays. Get ready to start those engines!
DogFest is back at Knebworth Park between 11th and 12th September. Hertfordshire dog owners are in for plenty of treats this year, with tricks, obedience techniques and doggy socialising perfect for lockdown pooches and new friends. Put your paws up for doggy displays and even pup paddle boarding, before spoiling your pal rotten in the festi-village.
What’s more – to really get those tails wagging – the team at DogFest have sorted us out with an exclusive discount for our Visit Herts friends. Simply use the code VISITHERTS when booking your event ticket at the link below, and you’ll receive 15% off your full ticket price.
For more information on DogFest and other Hertfordshire events at Knebworth Park, please visit https://www.dog-fest.co.uk/hertfordshire
About These Hertfordshire events
Please remember to always check an event’s website before travelling. These Hertfordshire events may be subject to change in line with events guidelines. Be sure to follow the latest government guidance regarding Covid-19 and take a look at Visit Herts’ #RespectProtectEnjoy advice in order to help keep yourself and others safe. We hope you enjoy these upcoming Hertfordshire events.