RBS has confirmed that they’re closing 259 branches, 62 at the Bank of Scotland and 197 at Natwest. Radlett is on the list. The bank is doing a pretty thorough job of informing customers and local people about their plans. There’s a leaflet for each closing branch, with an explanation of why the branch has been chosen for closure and details of alternatives (although, amusingly, the Radlett leaflet suggests the soon-to-be-demolished petrol station as an alternative cash point location!).
Amazon is the beast that ate shopping. In the US, Amazon is responsible for 43% of all online sales and is worth more than all the big bricks-and-mortar retailers put together. About a quarter of the US population pays for Prime membership (more figures). There’s an extraordinary battle going on in the US right now – 238 towns and cities are bidding billions for the right to host Amazon’s ‘second HQ’ (In Seattle, home of the first one, 7.5% of the working-age population works for the firm).
Amazon came to the UK in 1999 – its first major market outside the US – so we’ve had plenty of time to get used to buying all our stuff from the Seattle monster. And, although they don’t publish the numbers, we’re probably just as addicted as the Americans.
Radlett’s in an Amazon sweet spot. We’re close enough to the big warehouses to have access to all of the company’s services – from the basic delivery service to groceries (including Whole Foods, the upmarket food retailer bought by Amazon earlier this year) and the Amazon Prime Now app, so you can order practically anything for delivery within an hour. Step outside your front door during daylight and there’s a reasonable chance you’ll see an Amazon delivery happening. Radlett is the kind of prosperous suburban community that forms the backbone of Amazon’s profitability everywhere. We’re a kind of case study for Amazon’s take-over of UK retail.
So, we wanted to know how Radlett relates to Amazon. The anonymous survey is still live so please take two minutes to complete it if you haven’t already. There are ten questions and a box for you to type what you think of the company. If you complete the survey you get to see the complete results at the end. Fascinating reading.
Here are five insights from the survey results:
We shop with Amazon all the time
Over 85% of respondents shop at least once per month with Amazon. For almost a third of us it’s ‘several times per week’! This is the kind of loyalty that any retailer would kill for.
We spend a lot
64.2% of us spend at least £50 per month with Amazon and nearly a fifth (17%) of respondents say they spend over £200 per month. That’s a lot of money: the average household grocery spend in the UK is £53 per week.
We love Amazon Prime
Nearly three-quarters (71.2%) of respondents pay for Amazon Prime – the service that provides free delivery and access to lots of other services, from free Kindle downloads to music streaming. This is really telling. Radlett has a major Amazon addiction.
We dig one-hour delivery
Prime Now represents the next stage of Amazon dependence. A mobile app that gives you free one-hour delivery on groceries – from Amazon, Morrisons and Whole Foods (plus loads of other products held in the Hemel Hempstead warehouse). 30.2% of respondents use it or have tried it. We’ve certainly used the app in our house and the delivery drivers I’ve spoken to confirm that we’re not untypical in using the app to get emergency booze supplies midway through dinner!
We’re Amazon nuts
Not to put too fine a point on it, respondents to our survey are hopelessly in love with Amazon. 84.9% are either positive or very positive about the company. 28.3% ticked the box labelled ‘Very positive – I’ve become completely dependent’. And only 3.8% of us have any negative feelings at all, ticking the box labelled ‘Quite negative – I’m not comfortable with their market power but will use them occasionally’.
If you live in Radlett you live in an Amazon sweet spot. You can get free, one-hour delivery of practically everything in the warehouse and you can use all of the company’s services, including grocery delivery and the Prime Now mobile app. But not everyone likes the Seattle behemoth. Do you? Take our Amazon survey and we’ll share the results with you, here and on Twitter and Facebook.
News that a new shop is opening in Radlett doesn’t usually cause much of a stir. But when we heard that David and Amanda Segrue were planning to open a bookshop right here in Radlett, we really were excited. I spoke to David about the project:
Tell us what kind of bookshop you’re planning, David. What will it be called?
“We thought long and hard about the name and talked about successful bookshops. They’re all named after their founders so we came up with the name Segrue Books of Radlett. It took some time to get used to a bookshop having our name on it! We put Radlett in the name as we want the bookshop to be part of the community and for the people of Radlett to feel the shop belongs to the village. The shop will have a good range of fiction – mid-market and literary. Non-fiction will range from history and politics through to popular psychology, science and travel. We’ll also stock illustrated books including cookery, design and practical art, plus a good selection of children’s books.”
Radlett’s well within range of Amazon’s same-day delivery service. What makes you think there’s still a place for physical bookshops in 2016?
“Amazon provides an online shopping service that suits some consumers, but there are many book buyers who want to browse in a good bookshop. They want to touch a book and get a feel for it before they buy it. It’s very hard to really get a feel for a book on a screen. The other key to success in bookselling is the way the shop presents its books and gifts, the knowledge of the booksellers and their customer service. We can order almost 500,000 books for next-day delivery too.”
What’s your background? Have you run bookshops before?
“I’ve worked in the industry for 24 years as a sales agent for independent publishers, I supply everyone from Waterstones and WHSmith to museums, galleries and independent bookshops. I advise publishers on packaging of books and cover design. Amanda started life working in the city and for the last 14 years has managed finance for our sales agency. Neither of us have run a bookshop but have the trade experience. We’ll be employing an experienced bookshop manager and booksellers.”
We hear that 30% of your shop will be children’s books. Why are kids’ books so important?
“Children’s books have grown in sales for the last three to four years and the quality goes from strength to strength. Children are continually distracted by screens from phones and tablets to televisions. Books are a beautiful, tactile object that can help focus children’s minds, help calm children and inspire creativity.”
Will your shop reflect your own interests?
Amanda will bring a sense of calm to the shop with her interest in interior design, she has a flair for it. The key to success in bookselling is to build a shop’s stock around the local market, we’ll build the opening stock based on our knowledge of the local area. We’ll buy a small amount of gift product to sell and Amanda and I will do this to suit the taste of the locals.”
There’s the exciting prospect of ‘locally-made cakes’. Tell me more about the café.
“Amanda’s a tea drinker and has picked Tea Pigs as our supplier for tea, it will be served in pots with tea cups the way tea should be. I’m a coffee drinker and am insistent that you can’t serve coffee unless it is the best coffee. All the staff will be trained as baristas as well as being expert booksellers. Amanda is currently tasting cakes from a number of local bakers that make cakes at home, when we say home-made we mean home-made.”
Will you put on events, readings and meet-the-authors?
“There’s great excitement in the book trade for the shop opening, publishers are always keen to find new bookshops to promote authors. We’ll be looking for author signings and meet-the-author talks. We’ll look to run a bookclub which can also attract authors to meet bookclub members. We’re also looking to run children’s events tied in with authors and activity books. Our 11 year-old son wants to read to children on a Saturday and during the holidays.”
I hear you’ve taken the location of the old Wine Rack. Will you retain the parking spaces in front?
“The parking spaces are owned by the shops along the parade and so the 4 spaces in front of the shop are owned by Segrue Books of Radlett. We love the idea people can park outside, pop in for a coffee and a book and not have to worry about parking.”
You can sign up for email updates about the new bookshop on the Segrue Books web site.
Hertsmere Borough Council issued a press release yesterday. The company brought in to operate the three month trial of a farmers’ market in Newberries car park (behind Budgen’s) have given up on the idea. Here’s the release:
Following a three-month trial, the farmers’ market in Radlett will not be continued.
The management company – Hughmark Continental Ltd – came to the decision as they feel the market is not financially viable for them. Lew Hughes, Director, said: “Unfortunately we have decided not to continue with the market. Even though we weren’t charged for using the car park for the trial we have struggled to cover our costs so it just isn’t worthwhile for us.”
The trial ran at Newberries car park on the third Sunday of April, May and June, with the last market on Sunday (19 June).
Councillor Seamus Quilty, Portfolio Holder for economic development at Hertsmere Borough Council, said: “This may be disappointing for local residents but we cannot continue with the market if it isn’t cost-effective for anyone. We have tried to make it work but we can’t continue it for just a few residents, especially in the current financial climate.
“A small number of people have suggested that we haven’t promoted the market enough but we have done everything possible. This has included putting articles and adverts in various residents’ magazines and local papers, putting up posters in local shops and on lampposts and advertising it on our website and through social media. The last market was also promoted at the Radlett Festival the week before it.”
Simon Payton, Head of Engineering Services at Hertsmere Borough Council with responsibility for markets, added: “The trial started off quite well but never became economically viable – at the end of the day if stallholders don’t make a profit they will not return.
“It is a shame the market hasn’t worked but I think Radlett is a very different place to somewhere like St Albans which has a popular farmers’ market but also has a lot of other things to attract visitors.”
What do you think? Did Hertsmere and Hughmark promote the market properly or was it doomed from the start by a lack of adverts and banners? Was the location up to the task or essentially hidden behind the shops? And does anybody really need a fancy market selling artisan bread and organic honey anyway?
We’ve been dropping into the new shop in the Oakway parade on Watling Street since before Christmas so this is a belated welcome to owner Ali Sumbul (pictured) and his family who run the shop. Staff are terrifically friendly and have the entirely charming habit of noting down the things you’re after that they don’t have in stock so that they can get them in for your next visit.
Retail is pretty brutal at the best of times but whenever a new shop opens in this grim climate I find myself crossing my fingers. Ali’s chosen an unpromising stretch of Watling Street which has seen more than its fair share of closures but his shop is open all hours and serves the Northern end of the village that’s a good walk from Tesco and Budgen so he stands a chance of making a success of it. I do hope so!
- More of my Radlett pictures on Flickr.