Our thanks to Berkhamsted Citizens Association for this news item.
The increasing number of empty units in the town centre is a worrying trend. Closures seem to be on the up at present – Porters, Santander, Luminous & Vogue, Zebra, the Berkeley Gallery, Coral, Makana. The latest retail unit to voice concern over its future is the oldest of the lot – Woods. Its owner, Capital Gardens, is convinced that Waitrose’s expansion of its plants and garden range, specifically, is undermining the smaller retailer’s profitability. This may be true, but it could be that the supermarket’s expansion into another sector shows desperation of its own; John Lewis & Partners is by no means immune to current trends; it just has greater ability to absorb its losses due to its size and its constitution.
The Citizens think that the closures are part of a potentially worrying trend which has undermined the vitality of many a town centre, caused by consumers’ drift towards internet shopping. That would certainly be borne out by the number of delivery vans buzzing around town. And then there’s the punitive Business Rates. But let’s look on the bright side! The Copper House has opened in the Town Hall; Per Tutti is now in the old Britannia building; there is a new Day Spa in the old Knight Frank premises; there is a new interior design consultancy next to one of the new barbers. Indeed, there are more barbers and designers and coffee shops than you can count!
So the High Street has taken a different turn. The worrying thing is that few of its new occupants sell any ‘things’ – they are service providers of one sort or another. So residents become concerned, but are contributing to the trend.
The Citizens’ message is – use the High Street to buy things, or lose that facility! Support Woods by buying its many gardening-related products. And, of course, go out to coffee/brunch/lunch/dinner after a relaxing time in one of the many facilities at your disposal. Berkhamsted is a prosperous, thriving town; residents can help keep it as such.