The changing face of Chelmsford
The retail landscape of the city of Chelmsford continues to ebb and flow.
Despite being in the middle of (or at the back end of, depending who you listen to) a recession, the High Street is still a popular place for retailers in the sole Essex city.
This has also spread to the two shopping centres that bookend the main shopping thoroughfare, with both High Chelmer and The Meadows having store changes in recent times, an indication of the changing face of Chelmsford.
The biggest changes though are by the big names in retail, with Morrison’s reportedly taking over the old Burger King site by the stone bridge after Metro Bank were said to have changed their mind about taking the premises themselves.
At the other end of the street, Fraser Hart have massively revamped the old Curry’s store (managing to get through their loss-of-frontage problems caused by the recent storms) and it now looks much more welcoming than it has done for some time.
High Chelmer have seen DW Sports open, along with Superdry taking the old Republic space, and CEX filling the store vacated by Red Sun Comics, whereas Hawkins Bazaar, who left High Chelmer a year ago, have reopened in the Meadows.
The biggest shock for me was seeing Nosh, the sandwich place next to Prêt, close. Nosh has been there for many years and not so long back underwent a revamp that saw them open a roof terrace at the back of their store.
The poster hanging in the window tells its own story and ties into the fact that Chelmsford is one of the most expensive places in the country to open a retail outlet.
More worrying for me is that in losing Nosh, and to some extent seeing Jessop’s close due to the economy, the High Street has lost some of its charm. More so as both buildings are reopening as betting shops.
We have been in danger for some time of losing our High Street to a myriad of phone shops and banks, but now we can add bookmakers to that list.
Although the problem is somewhat addressed by the independent stalls at the weekly High Street market, this in itself has problems in terms of not having enough space and reducing pedestrian traffic to having to squeeze past everyone and everything when the market it running.
It’s also worth pointing out that the physical state of the High Street is atrocious, with the entire paving of it showing an almost rippled effect (if you don’t believe me, take a closer look down the road as you’ll see it - there are more waves than the ocean). It does, however, allow a place for the independently run business to flourish, and provides a much-needed support to the local economy.
Despite the successful move by big names in opening throughout Chelmsford, we can still expect big names to go in the future. Blockbuster have some well-documented problems which will see their Springfield Road store close soon, and Grays Brewery Yard is still noticeably empty long after ELC moved in with Mothercare not long before Field and Trek closed.
Click here to find out: Which big name is coming to Chelmsford next?
Perhaps the City will resurge further once John Lewis opens, along with the rumoured introduction of Metro Bank on the same site. Couple in the plans that High Chelmer have to improve their centre it should only help that resurgence though that remains to be seen. It may just push retail space prices even higher making it harder still for local businesses to get a foothold.
Until then, a big welcome to Superdry, Poundstretcher, Fraser Hart, CEX and Hawkins Bazaar. All great brands which will hopefully thrive in the city and bring new job opportunities to everyone.