Hertford Retail Check

“They may ring their bells now, before long they will be wringing their hands.”

When the bells were rung in London on the declaration of war against Spain in the 1739 ‘War of Jenkin’s Ear’ , Robert Walpole uttered his most memorable quote as all students of English history will know.

Sir Robert Walpole (26 August 1676 – 18 March 1745),  is generally regarded as the first Prime Minister of Great Britain. The current Prime Minister would probably like the bells of Big Ben to chime on Friday, 31st January on the UK’s exit from Europe but this will not happen now.

Hertford will not be ringing any bells on the publication of the most recent Hertford Town Centre Retail Health Check commissioned by East Herts Council and presented by the Retail Group.

They describe themselves thus: The Retail Group is a specialist retail management consultancy that provides informed solutions about consumers’ future needs for a wide range of retail and property clients. The philosophy of our business is “to improve our clients’ business through our understanding of shoppers, their shopping habits, businesses and the skills of retailing”.

The report does not make for pleasant reading. If you are feeling so disposed then you can read the Hertford Town Centre Retail Health Check here.

One thing in its favour is that the overwhelming majority of Hertford’s town centre traders responded to the consultation and their response is well documented into readable statistics. Some analysis of these results are below:

This question (satisfaction levels) clearly identifies that all is not well in Hertford Town Centre. Whilst the majority of businesses are satisfied with the performance of their shops /outlets, they are also unsatisfied with the performance of the town centre. Nearly half are very dissatisfied. This is a significant finding and one of the lowest satisfaction responses we have ever received for a market town of a similar size to Hertford.

Town Centre Priority Improvement Areas. Many of the other improvements sought relate to a better consumer experience (safe, cleaner, ease of use etc) or an improved environment (public realm, less traffic congestion). A final consistent theme wanted by respondents was more events that generate footfall (e.g. markets, promotion, online information, better signage etc). Improved food & beverage (f&b) offer is not a requirement.

Views and Opinions. In regards general views and opinions abut the town centre, this question captured quite negative responses. Respondents didn’t feel the markets offer was
good, nor agreed that the town centre was improving each year, nor had many reasons to visit it or was an appealing destination. The good news is that a few businesses would recommend it and most felt it was clean and pleasant. Whilst the tone of the response is clearly negative it does identify aspects for the town to improve.

Despite the report’s findings, there was little discussion when it was presented to the District Council’s Executive Committee on Thursday January 21st. Councillors simply voted to note the contents of the report and recommend that the Council works with other “stakeholders” to agree “the appropriate mechanism to support the improvement of economic and retail performance and environmental considerations within Hertford Town Centre”.

At the centre of all things Hertford is the future of Bircherley Green Shopping Centre. At the time of writing nothing has happened. Chase New Homes had stated that they have submitted plans to East Herts Council before Christmas 2019 as promised but there are still no signs of luminous yellow planning notices appearing on a wall near you.

There is nothing new in the universe as a reading of my previous posts will confirm.

All my previous posts archived here:

By John Barber

John Barber was born in London at the height of the UK Post War baby boom. He had careers in Advertising, International Banking and the Wine Industry before becoming Town Centre Manager in his home town of Hertford. He has been writing professionally since 1996 when he began to contribute articles to magazines on social and local history. His first published book in 2002 was a non-fiction work entitled The Camden Town Murder, a hitherto unsolved murder case from 1907.