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.
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 Wellness Hub in Berkhamsted welcomes IV Boost therapy clinic
IV Boost – a renowned IV therapy clinic on London’s Wimpole Street – has opened at The Wellness Hub in Berkhamsted. Founded in 2005 by medical director Dr Joshua Berkowitz, IV Boost takes a holistic approach to health and wellness to help boost and restore the body’s natural ability to be well, energised and able to resist ageing.
“We are delighted to welcome Dr Josh and the IV Boost to The Wellness Hub and are excited to be offering our customers these fantastic IV therapies,” says Emma James, MD and owner The Wellness Hub on Lower Kings Street. “IV Boost prides itself on its medical skills and personalised approach which mirrors our commitment to offering bespoke wellbeing solutions. I have no doubt its services will prove popular in complementing and enhancing our existing range of therapies which include physiotherapy, massage, beauty therapy, sports massage, Pilates, personal training and yoga.”
“We have been very impressed by The Wellness Hub and have been made most welcome here,” says Dr Joshua Berkowitz. “IV therapy is increasingly popular as a means to achieving optimum health and we have been looking for a new clinic outside London to meet the growing demand for our services.
“The Wellness Hub is the perfect site for IV Boost and we look forward to meeting its customers. We recognise that IV therapy will be new to many people and clients can rest assured they will have a consultation before any therapy to ensure it suits their exact needs.”
IV Vitamin Therapy
Intravenous (IV) Vitamin Therapy has been practised for many years, often to support conventional medical treatment of a wide range of health conditions. It is the fastest way to deliver nutrients throughout the body because it bypasses the digestive system and is 90-100% absorbed directly into the organs (compared to 20-50% absorption if taken orally).
A vitamin shot is an intramuscular injection that treats various vitamin deficiencies. It is absorbed into your bloodstream via your muscles. Unlike vitamins taken orally, vitamin shots bypass the digestive system and result in a 90-100% absorption rate. Many people feel the effects within hours of the treatment which takes just a few minutes to administer.
Medical grade ozone is a highly active and reactive form of oxygen which is prepared by a highly skilled practitioner just before being administered. Ozone therapy can restore optimum oxygen levels in the body by increasing the red blood cell count and this, in turn, stimulates the release of oxygen into the body’s tissues.
Diagnostic testing gives a very clear picture of your health and can help pinpoint problems that may be missed through consultation or ‘standard’ blood tests offered by GPs. IV Boost uses a leading London laboratory which offers a very quick turnaround of precise, accurate results.
IV Boost can deliver a range of non-surgical treatments to enhance the appearance and treat the visible signs of ageing. These rejuvenating treatments use the latest evidence-based products and cutting-edge technology to deliver safe, effective and long-lasting effects. Performed to the highest standard, each treatment plan is tailored to address individual concerns to optimise results.
About IV Boost
IV Boost is located in The Wellness Hub, 26 Lower kings road, Berkhamsted, Herts, HP4 2AE
Mulberry Homes shares top tips on dealing with stress at home
Luxury housebuilder Mulberry Homes is sharing its top tips on defusing stress at home this National Stress Awareness Day, taking place on Wednesday 2nd November, to help its residents beat the mania of modern life.
Clear out unwanted clutter
There’s never a perfect opportunity to declutter and sort through all your belongings, but it can be a very cathartic experience. Removing unwanted items from your home can help you focus on the things that really mean a lot to you.
A clear and organised space can help you feel more relaxed, and it’ll be much easier to destress without being surrounded by clutter.
Maintain a healthy sleep schedule
During particularly stressful times, it can be easy to slip into bad habits like not getting enough sleep, which can make the stress worse.
A full night’s sleep will help you to recharge quickly, and provide you with enough energy to get through the busy days.
It’s easy to take comfort in junk food, especially with the convenience of takeaways. But eating unhealthily will put your body at a disadvantage when it comes to coping with and recovering from stress.
A healthy diet, rich in fruits, vegetables and wholegrains, is a great way to improve wellbeing.
Make use of your garden
Being in the outdoors is proven to be beneficial for your mental wellbeing. Surrounding yourself with greenery and breathing in fresh air is an excellent thing to make sure you do every now and again, especially if you’ve been indoors all day.
Many of us nowadays lead very inactive lifestyles, both at work and at home, looking at screens. However, short bursts of physical exercise are proven to boost your mood.
Releasing those endorphins into your system is an excellent way to unwind and to prepare yourself best for dealing with the upcoming stress of the day. Try going for a run in the morning, or a walk after work.
About Mulberry Homes
This year, Mulberry Homes has been running a monthly community fund, called The Mulberry Community Chest.
As part of the programme, charities and public organisations local to its developments are invited to apply to receive a one-off donation of £1 to £1000, and each month, a judging panel will select a beneficiary to secure the requested funding. For more information or to submit an application, visit https://mulberryhomes.co.uk/news/distinctly-local/.
Established in 2011 and based in Warwickshire, Mulberry Homes is a medium housebuilder that provides quality properties across the wider midlands. It specialises in individual and small developments with their own looks and personalities and builds traditional homes with modern layouts.