In the past few weeks I have spoken with a number of High Street businesses in Hadleigh expressing concerns of how quiet trade has been recently.
Over the 2 ‘full’ years I have been trading in Hadleigh, there is distinct difference in trends during certain periods of the year to our sister shop in Long Melford as comparison.
Melford, considered a tourist destination (much like neighbouring Lavenham) shows a far healthier trade during summer months or in the peak of tourism. This bias is then tipped in favour to Hadleigh when we move into the festive trading period (Oct-Dec and post Xmas Jan) as a result of more people generally ‘shopping’ for gifts at that time and utilising what the High Street has to offer.
This for me demonstrates an issue that the High Street in Hadleigh faces and why a focus on direction must be undertaken by the town as a whole to avoid a long term decline.
Working town, market town which ever label it receives, the High Street is what people recognise as the focus of activity. It’s the single strongest asset we have to ‘market’ ourselves to a wider audience.
Its diversity is sprinkled with coffee shops, estate agents, hairdressers and the charity shops. Entwined between those you will find quality independent boutiques and specialised shops, like my own, which are giving visitors an added compelling reason to choose Hadleigh, all in our beautifully historic setting.
Hadleigh High Street has an opportunity to be a spectacularly beautiful retail experience for those who are looking to avoid the challenges presented by the larger more congested towns that surround us. But the window of opportunity is limited and action must be taken, as a tipping point could be on us. We are seeing aspects even now, and this is a concern.
As one of the 5 Wool towns in our vicinity vying to become a new destination area akin to the Cotswolds, (the others are Lavenham, Long Melford, Clare & Sudbury), it is arguable that Hadleigh has the least to offer visitors in terms of historic tourism. Whilst our history is equally as rich, the restriction of access to our historic assets rules this strand of promotion an economic cul-de-sac.
Contrastingly, our opportunity to develop as a lifestyle/retail destination is far wider. Moving our perception from tourists to visitors and on to “consumers” – that is any individual who samples what Hadleigh has in terms of the experience - whether as a local resident, outside visitor or overnight stay visitor.
There is a school of thought from expert circles that this type of destination & socialised shopping experience is the short term future of retail and the heart of the High Street survival in general. Almost full circle to the online shopping behaviours we see today.
Our town, almost central to our neighbouring struggling larger towns (Colchester, Ipswich & Bury St Edmunds) who have been harder challenged by new modern shopping trends, can be a beacon in South Suffolk for this purpose.
SO far, not one single group other than the Chamber of Commerce has looked to promote Hadleigh in this way, sticking to the limited options of tourism and visitors as mentioned before.
A shift of perception is required so Hadleigh can begin a journey of development for its future.
By promoting Hadleigh as a definitive lifestyle/retail destination, not only will this leverage the towns trade wholesale, but incentivise those shoppers to look to Hadleigh for the whole 12 months of the year.
We also would invite further investment into the town’s economy as other businesses appreciate the progressive nature adopted, increasing employment opportunities and creating an infrastructure more able to support the increasing & developing area’s in and near to Hadleigh.
Hadleigh would be viewed truly ‘open for business’.
We cannot, however, take the High Street for granted and rely on a limited tourism/visitor trade or even our local community to maintain its existence.
Thank you, and we welcome thoughts and commentary by return - please email email@example.com
Chairman of the Hadleigh Chamber of Commerce
Owner of Hall Street
(of) Hall Street Long Melford Suffolk CO10 9JL
99 High Street Hadleigh Suffolk IP7 5EJ
"GANT Heartland Partner Suffolk"