Give Bedford a Christmas present: shop local

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Epanoui
Epanoui on Mill Street is a treasure trove of high-quality gifts for all tastes.

There’s just one week to go until Christmas Day. For retailers, of all sizes, this is not just the most wonderful time of the year, but also the most crucial. You can give them the support they need by shopping local.

If you’ve run out of time to order anything to be delivered before Christmas, it’s time to head to the shops and support Bedford’s town centre businesses. Explore Bedford has put together a ‘don’t panic, here’s your last minute gift guide‘ plus you can find a list of all town centre retailers at LoveBedford’s website.

Of course, supporting our town centres is not just for Christmas. If we want to retain Debenhams, New Look, M&S plus the wealth of incredible indie retailers, we need to use them or lose them.

This year continues to be a challenging time for retailers, with both ‘bricks and mortar’ and online retailers suffering. Online behemoth, Asos, has issued a profit warning amid uncertainty around Brexit and increased pre-Christmas discounting across retailers.

City analysts, Deloitte, predict that discounting could reach up to 48% by Christmas Eve. Good news for shoppers, but the longer-term implications for the over-all economy are not so rosy, which depends on household consumption for about 60% of annual GDP.

Interviewed in the Guardian, ASOS chief executive, Nick Beighton, said, “In fashion we are seeing an unprecedented level of discounting, certainly something I haven’t seen before, and that’s across the board.”

With online businesses also suffering, we can no longer blame the demise of the High Street solely on the internet. The problem runs deeper: consumer uncertainty, low wages, less disposable income, Brexit.

Rogan's Books
Young readers will love anything from Rogan’s Books.

In contrast to the the national picture, footfall in Bedford has risen by 1.6% – higher than the national average, with 14.7 million visits in 2017. There are fewer empty shops than the national average and 24 new independent shops have opened in the last four months.

As we reported last month, parking in Bedford is comparable or cheaper than nearby towns, with a significantly higher proportion of free parking spaces every day of the week.

Weekdays

  • Bedford: Free to £2.20 (number of free spaces = 640)
  • Luton: £1.50 to £3.80
  • Milton Keynes: Free to £4.00 (number of free spaces = 120)
  • Northampton: Free to £3.50 (number of free spaces = 2,347)

Weekends

  • Bedford: Free to £2.00 (number of free spaces = 2,603)
  • Luton: £1.50 to £4.00
  • Milton Keynes: Free to £4.00 (number of free spaces = 120)
  • Northampton: £1.20 to £3.50

This does show that Bedford parking charges are the same or cheaper than towns nearby. The figures also don’t take into account the cost of petrol to get to towns outside of Bedford.

What’s more, investment continues to come to town. The Harpur Centre’s massive upgrade is almost complete and other big brands are set to open on our high street in 2019 to join the likes of other big chains like Peacocks and Starbucks who’ve recently seen that Bedford is a great town to do business with.

Harpur Centre Upgrade
The Harpur Centre’s refurbishment will create a contemporary shopping destination.

Across the country, discounting website Picodi.com found that Brits spend on average of £388 per person on Christmas, 45% of that goes on gifts and presents for loved ones. With 35% of us leaving it until the last minute to make their Christmas purchases, it would be great if we spent as much as we could in our town centre shops.