Bedford is attracting more visitors, independent shops and investors than ever, according to recent figures.
The wide array of shops, cafes, restaurants and leisure facilities Bedford has to offer are proving a hit with visitors and shoppers as the number of shoppers continues to grow.
Figures from May 2014 and May 2015 show a nine per cent increase in footfall figures in the town, bringing the total number recorded within Bedford town centre in May 2015 alone to 1.2m.
Shop vacancy figures for Bedford Borough Council’s retail units reflect this increased interest in the town, with just 5 per cent currently empty; some of the lowest figures ever seen.
Bedford Borough Mayor Dave Hodgson said: “Bedford is bucking national trends with more people coming to the town centre than in previous years.
“A vibrant mix of independent shops, well-known chains and an array of high quality cafes and restaurants are all helping to attract shoppers.
“Meanwhile, the free Council parking available on both Saturdays and Sundays gives people even more reason to choose to visit and enjoy the town centre.”
He added: “This is an exciting time for Bedford, with ever-increasing shopping and entertainment opportunities on the horizon.
“With the newly-completed bus station, award-winning car parks and exciting riverside regeneration, there is a lot to look forward to for residents and visitors.”
The challenging economic conditions in past years have combined with trends towards out-of-town and internet shopping to threaten the UK high streets. Yet, these increased footfall and low shop vacancy rates show that Bedford remains a hot spot for Independents, shoppers and investors.
Bedford’s independent retail base is something the town can be particularly proud of. On average, it is estimated only 43.7 per cent of retailers within towns in the East of England are independent.
However, against this figure, Bedford’s independent retail base totalled 51 per cent; reflecting the unique offerings available.
New shops have opened in Bedford town centre, showing independent retailers are continuing to invest in the town. Bespoke traders such as Seventh Heaven, Gallones, Herd, Lost and Found, Smoke Shack, George James Bridal boutique and Pride Kitchens have all set up shop in Bedford town centre within the past six months, bringing the total number of independent businesses to 325.