During my time as Town Centre Manager it was easy to promote Hertford, a different but amazing kind of town full of independent traders; a town where you could still find a haberdashery (since closed), ironmongers and diving school (closed since December 2016 and premises still unoccupied). That wide retail offer continues to decline since my first post on this phenomenon in November last year (see below).
I walked along St Andrew Street and the first thing I noticed was that one of the most iconic buildings in town was ‘To Let’ – Beckwiths, once home to an equally iconic antiques business.
It was also home for the stone man that was decapitated a few years back.
He was restored but the damage means he is not so tall and does not fit so snugly underneath the eaves.
A little further towards Old Cross ‘Audio Hi-Fi’ remains empty as it has done for more years than I can remember. The business moved around the corner opposite the old Library but it was soon sold to a competitor who then closed it and Deli Italia moved in only to close as well a few months back. The premises remain empty. A few more yards along Bob Hill Motorcycles remains dark.
All is not lost in St Andrew Street as Fingertips have moved in where the Il Vino coffee shop was but this has left a hole in Fore Street of which much later.
On to Maidenhead Street and the sad frontage of what was Ashleys – see my earlier note.
The last time I looked in there was an empty space full of concrete debris and a JCB that had fallen into a pit.
A few weeks back Planning Department nailed a notice to the hoarding for the owners to replace the hoarding with something more befitting the town. It was pushed through the letterbox and nothing more has happened.
To the right and along Honey Lane is the similarly empty and boarded premises of the Halifax.
This was part of the Lloyds Banking Group and Lloyds Bank in Bircherley Street must surely be a casualty of the Bircherley Green Redevelopment.
The space is required for the new Premier Inn – if planning is approved
Speaking of which Halfords are going early and have announced that they will be leaving their present site on September 19 and moving across the road on September 26 beneath the gym at the old Marquee Centre. This will increase the empty space in the shopping centre as Freedom Australia moved out some time ago; and The Luxury Soap Company and Hobs Hairdressers have also departed.
A few short steps from Halfords the Ruby Room annexe shop is also empty again, Retail Therapy having moved some time ago to St Andrew Street.
I have mentioned Fingertips above as having moved from Fore Street but that is just the beginning of the story.
The Oak Room and Creative Sanctuary both have ‘To Let’ signs above and will be closing at the end of the summer period.
Four Seasons gift shop is in the final days of a sale before closure.
Emma H the bra shop is also empty (owing to lack of support – sorry, couldn’t resist that awful pun).
Out of curiosity I checked a few estate agents on-line to see what retail premises were available and saw a few not mentioned above and will not mention here as there are no visible signs of the incumbents wanting to vacate premises. The obvious signs are there; that Hertford is seeing a slow and gradual loss of retail outlets.
It is not all doom and gloom.
Two vaping shops have opened in Market Street and St Andrew Street and Hertford Wine in Maidenhead Street.
The last time I updated my database the vacancy rate in Hertford was slightly over 3%. I am informed that it is now just over 5% but does not include the recent and imminent closures above.
Let us not forget that Waitrose will close on 12th September and that a date for a decision to be made on the planning application for the redevelopment of Bircherley Green has yet to be set. Until such time as a decision is made I cannot see how anyone can have any confidence in opening a shop in Hertford – of course I could be wrong.