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Which Three Counties high streets will survive 2021?

Lee Hall

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what should happen to the empty Beales in Bedford?

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?

Closed retailer Beales on Bedford High Street. High Streets are in danger.

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.

intu Watford outlines how it will keep people safe
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.

St Albans

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.

Hitchin

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

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.

Pizza Express in The Hub Milton Keynes

High streets and towns that will struggle after Covid-19

Luton

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.

Hemel Hempstead

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.

 

Hemel Hempstead - High Streets after Covid 19

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.

Stevenage

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.

Bedford

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.

Would Bedford benefit from being pedestrianised?

Dunstable

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.

 

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St Albans’ favourite Chloe James Lifestyle prepares for reopening

Lee Hall

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Chloe James Lifestyle prepares for lockdown reopening

As one of St Albans’ favourite destinations for all things haute couture, we are excited that Chloe James Lifestyle have announced they will be reopening this coming Monday 12th April.

Regular St Albans shoppers will know Chloe James Lifestyle has been a fixture on High Street St Albans for over 10 years. Despite being extremely busy preparing for the reopening, Owner Donna Nichol has shared her thoughts on reopening Chloe James Lifestyle and what changes fashionistas can expect.

Chloe James Lifestyle owner Donna Nichol

Chloe James Lifestyle owner Donna Nichol

What are you looking forward to most at Chloe James Lifestyle?

Personally, I’m really looking forward to the buzz of a busy shop again – lots of chat and laughter and the general feel good vibes of helping people look and feel their best. Nothing beats it! When we reopen, we are going straight back to our normal hours i.e. 10-5.30 Monday to Saturday and 11-4 on Sunday. We can’t wait to open the doors again and welcome our customers back in!

What new changes can we expect at Chloe James Lifestyle?

The shop has had a complete refresh. Every single inch has been cleaned and there are lots of new products for our customers to enjoy, including great gift lines and a new jewellery brand as well as our Spring fashion collections. One of my personal favourites is a new French fashion label called FRNCH which we are currently featuring in our window – the colours are just stunning!

We love what independent businesses bring to St Albans. How do you think shoppers will respond post lockdown?

I believe there’s going to be a real return to shopping small. After all, we are the ones who have carried on throughout the pandemic, finding ways to adapt to our customers’ needs, offering Click & Collect and always being at the end of a phone to help find the perfect birthday gift. We’ve even personally delivered them on a specific date when it was possible!

We’ve also kept our windows vibrant to cheer up the daily walk and many people have said how much they loved this. It’s become apparent to everyone how much small independent businesses add to their community and we really must make sure they don’t disappear!


About Chloe James – Chloe James Lifestyle is an elegant lifestyle boutique based in St Albans specialising in fashion, art, stylish interiors and beautiful gifts.

TrendLife Magazine is available from a network of stockists across Beds, Bucks and Herts. For more info, contact us.

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Amersham High Street Spanish restaurant Pluma prepares to reopen

Lee Hall

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Buckinghamshire Spanish Kitchen Pluma prepares for reopening
Popular Spanish Kitchen Pluma is preparing to reopen its doors on Amersham High Street this week. Despite being extremely busy organising the reopening, co-founder Charlie Baxter has found some time to tell us what to expect when Pluma reopens. Charlie and wife Arantxa co-founded Pluma in 2012 with the goal of bringing the best Spanish traditions and culture to their food.

What are you looking forward to most at Pluma?

We will be opening on the 13th of April to the public. We have changed our opening hours for the dine out stage of lockdown ease to 12.00pm-8pm (last booking). We are most looking forward to greeting our wonderful guest back into the restaurant. We have missed them dearly.

What new changes can we expect at Pluma?

We have been working hard to create some amazing new dishes for the menu. which have been created by our head chef Luis Urrutiabeaskoa from Bilbao. We have also been hard at work in the bar to bring some exciting new cocktails to really help our guests celebrate the re-opening of restaurants with a bang.

Buckinghamshire Spanish Kitchen Pluma prepares for reopening

Fancy sampling Pluma cocktails this summer?

About Pluma

Pluma serve food with a conscience and are big believers in giving back, and doing good where they can. Pluma pride themselves on working closely with local suppliers who have the same ethical values. Pluma also have a great blog and social presence that we recommend following. Pluma can be found on 18 High St, Amersham, HP7 0DJ.

Buckinghamshire Spanish Kitchen Pluma prepares for reopening

 

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Foodies For Thought : What are you doing when lockdown eases?

Lee Hall

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TrendLife talks with local Three Counties foodies about life after lockdown

With a number of our favourite eateries across Beds, Bucks & Herts getting ready to open their doors (and gardens) next week, TrendLife have spoken with six of our favourite foodies to find out where they plan to visit and what they plan to do as lockdown eases across the Three Counties.

In our first of two features, we speak to local foodies Chris of @meat_with_beer, Rachel of @bucksfood and Nadia of @MyRudeFood.

@meat_with_beer

Meet With Beer - Foodies For Thought :: What are you doing when lockdown eases?

How has lockdown been for you?

Honestly I can’t complain. No one has had it easy, but I’ve got a job, I’ve not been furloughed, work’s been pretty busy, and family and friends are all safe and well.

Food and drink are social activities for me though and I love nothing more than going out with friends for drinks or to try somewhere new to eat. It’s my passion and before COVID it is what I would be doing most weekends. Obviously lockdown changed that, so instead I’ve cooked more, used some of the money saved by not commuting to upgrade my BBQ, and tried some of the great meal kits that are around now. Those really helped bring a flavour normality home.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the same but it can be fun. I’ve also tried to check out more local businesses, meaning I have come across some great places across Herts I didn’t know about before. That’s as well as supporting local places I love and want to still be there after lockdown. So generally I’ve tried to make the most of it.

Hertfordshire lockdown highlights for me have included: cheese from the Little Deli (Hitchin), beers from Beer Shop (Hitchin & St Albans), wine from Wee Vinoteca and Hedley Wright (both Hitchin), breakfast baps from The Bull (at Gosmore) and The Groundworks (Hitchin), meat from Chapman’s butchers (Baldock), plant based delights from Chia (Hitchin) and Vutie Beets (Letchworth) and desserts from Pudding Stop (St Albans) and Neighbourhood Bakes (Hitchin).

Hitchin has had some awesome hot food places open during lockdown too, like Cawsburger, Chicken George Jr and Major Crusts.

What is going to be the first drink you order at the bar?

First will be a draft beer at the Kite in April, but I’m also looking forward to sangrias at Los Reyes, wine flights at Wee Vinoteca and some IPAs at Beer Shop in May.

Where have you missed visiting the most during the lockdown?

Los Reyes and Beer Shop in Hitchin both get my top vote.

Where is the first place you plan to visit when the restrictions are lifted?

Not everywhere is opening in April, but if those that are I am looking forward to having a few beers and some food at the Kite at the Red Hart in Hitchin. I’ve got a table booked at Los Reyes in May too.


TrendLife talks with local Three Counties foodies about life after lockdown
myrudefood

How has lockdown been for you?

It’s a weird one for me, I have been living with chronic illness (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome & Adenomyosis) since 2001. Lessons of acceptance and gratitude that had already become part of my tool kit, have helped so much during lockdown. I have also improved my Skype skills, texted more and generally communicated more regularly with friends old and new.

I also attended a few distance learning courses & a couple of online seminars, which on all likely-hood I wouldn’t have done in ‘normal’ circumstances. Like many others home cooks I also grew and nurtured a “Mother” (sour dough starter) I lovingly called Birtha. Using Birtha I mastered sourdough bread making fairly successfully.

I made more banana bread and cookies than was strictly necessary. I don’t want to make light of the situation, but I am aware I was better prepared than a lot of people. The general sense of appreciating the little things, the joys that can be found in nature and music was already part of my general outlook.

Where have you missed visiting the most during the lockdown?

It’s been a mixed bag, obviously I have missed my loved ones enormously. I’ve missed going out to restaurants , pubs, shopping, just the feeling of freedom that we used to take for granted. But truly, I just feel incredibly lucky that I wasn’t directly impacted by Covid-19 and was merely inconvenienced by Lockdown.

Where is the first place you plan to visit when the restrictions are lifted?

Really looking forward to a meal at the Alford Arms in Frithsden and my sister has already got us a table booked at Prime in Chandlers Cross

What is going to be the first drink you order at the bar?

Hoping that I’ll have a fruity Pimms in a pub garden on a sunny spring afternoon.


@bucksfoodie

BucksFoodie : TrendLife talks with local Three Counties foodies about life after lockdown

How has lockdown been for you?

This latest lockdown has been hard, I think with the cold weather and the shorter days it’s been difficult for a lot of people.

I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to work full-time ( & not just working from home) as it’s meant I’m out and about & can actually finance my #TakeawayTuesday that I started at the beginning of this year! I’ve tried to spend the money that I would’ve done at restaurants on food stalls & takeaways – supporting small, local businesses where I can.

I have enjoyed the odd day working from home – it’s meant I’ve had additional time to create content & experiment. I’ve LOVED the TikTok trends that have hit the foodie community. What better way to get people into cooking! I’ve definitely tried my hand at a few – the baked feta pasta is eaten at least twice a month in our house!

I think I’ve also found a lot more time to talk to fellow bloggers & businesses. I’ve made some truly wonderful friends like the lovely Fliss from @berkshirecollective_ but it’s all been virtual! I can’t wait to meet her & others in person! It’s a funny old thing Instagram, but I’m so grateful for the people it’s brought into my life & the relationships I’ve been able to establish with businesses, even if we’ve not seen each other face to face… yet! I won’t lie though – I’ll be glad to see the end of zoom!

What is going to be the first drink you order at the bar?

Well – definitely a STRONG cosmopolitan! I’ve missed cocktails, I just cannot seem to make good enough one’s at home. Or a G & T, hopefully with a local Gin, Bucks is bursting with amazing Gin distillers!

Where have you missed visiting the most during the lockdown?

I’ve definitely missed bars! Especially places like The Snug & Bar Botanic in High Wycombe. As well as some of my local coffee shops that haven’t been able to open at all for takeaways. That being said, I love a coffee shop in general and it’s been hard to get that ‘experience’ when you’re just picking up a takeaway coffee.

I kept my love for some restaurants alive by ordering takeaways from them – I loved the Lata Lata at Home takeaway, it was a delight to experience the brilliance of their food at home – but I’m very excited to get back to their gorgeous location. I can’t wait to sit in a restaurant, and get that buzz & excitement of reading a menu, placing your order and eagerly waiting for its arrival.

Where is the first place you plan to visit when the restrictions are lifted?

Probably my local pub – The George & Dragon in West Wycombe they’re a fantastic team and they deserve all the support possible. I’m also hoping to go to The Full Moon Pub in Little Kingshill, Lata Lata in High Wycombe and Pluma in Amersham. I’m going to stick to independents as much as I can. Besides actual venues I’d love to go to more food markets, and visit more food stalls.

Foodies For Thought : What are you doing when lockdown eases?

If you are a foodie from Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire or Hertfordshire, get in touch as we would like to hear from you. We will be working with eateries in the Three Counties this summer and have a number of opportunities for foodies and food bloggers.

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