Thursday, 11 December 2014

New Watford Market ~ what's really going on?

This Saturday which was Small Business Saturday I spent about 4 hours around the Watford market from 10am through to 2pm. This was probably the coldest day so far this year on the New Market. The +Link4Growth Team meet up every Saturday morning at Ell's Kitchen to grab a bacon butty and a coffee or two. This week due to the cold weather we were driven inside the cafe rather than sitting in the outside seating area. Ray has installed some heaters inside the unit.

We were reviewing the new A6 cards example shown which we will be using to start spreading the message wider afield about Link4Growth, community building and the #L4GBuyLocal initiative (please take a look at that blog too).

So... I then had a chance to catch up with some of the market traders as well as do two more videos; Stan E-Cigarette company and Mina from the Shona Boutique. So after 8 weeks and now heading briskly into winter, how is the mood amongst the market traders in what should be their busiest period of the year.

So far I have been down to the New Watford Market every weekend since it opened and there is definitely a different mood from the one in mid October for sure. There are certainly winners and losers on the new market. I am going to be as objective as possible in this report, as you know I am a massive fan of the market and along with all those in support of #L4GBuyLocal and #Watford we have to be honest. There is no point in being blindly positive in the face of what are quite basic shortcomings of the New Market and yet we must look to those who are responsible to get things sorted quickly or face a worsening of the situation which is fast reaching tipping point for a few of the stall holders.

Unlike what is being intimated via the local press the Market Stall holders are not a bunch of moaning traders who have nothing better to do than bash the council or Town & Country Markets (new operator of Watford market). What the stall holders want is a decent place to operate their businesses with facilities that would be afforded anyone paying substantial rents and service fees (£6,000 per annum). Below is a list of items that need resolving, quite honestly it is unacceptable and the Council should be putting pressure on Town & Country Markets to hold a performance review sooner rather than later. They are quite obviously not meeting even basic 'service level' criteria. Ultimately the Council have outsourced the running of the market but they still have a responsibility and duty of care to ensure that their supplier is doing the job!

Toilet & washroom facilities
No cleaning programme or scheduled cleaning... No feminine hygiene facilities... No contracted supplier of toilet rolls or hand towels

General cleaning / housekeeping
One cleaning operative for the entire market with what appears to be little supervision or guidance.

Rubbish mountain debacle
Last week photographic evidence was taken of a veritable mountain of rubbish piled against unit 25 (Shona Boutique). This contained fish heads, meat and food products and represented a health hazard, notwithstanding an open invitation for pest infestation. The severity of the wind lead to one of the commercial bins being blown against a van whose occupant managed to restrain the bin from on the ring road itself, narrowly averting an accident. The rubbish has now been removed, but this incident highlights a lack of proper waste management, something the Market is in urgent need of.

Signage
From the day the market was opened there has been inadequate signage. There has been much talk of illuminated signage, projected images highlighting the market location... In fact lots of promises.

What we have are a few light post signs, well above head height and not something you would notice in normal walking mode. Recently completed signs on the Bridge. These don't appear illuminated and really serve to give the impression that the market is actually in the high street itself not where it is tucked away round the corner.

The very least that is required at the high street end is an arrow to indicate where the market is located and some illuminated signs. There appears to be some other signage in Clarendon road which is good and now in other places so we're making progress but still much more to do... And a missed opportunity as the Christmas period is now passing fast.

Some stall holders are now having to resort to paying extra to have an additional high street presence as people are assuming the New Market are the few stalls in the actual High Street ignoring the actual market altogether!

Speaking with Dan (Meanwhile Across Town Comics) at the other end of the market the Clarendon Road side there really needs to be a rethink. An inappropriate car park, bins, poor design and a barely noticeable welcome sign culminate in an extremely lack lustre presentation which does nothing to attract potential visitors from office workers in Clarendon Road. For the New Market to increase footfall, compete for lunchtime trade and be a viable alternate lunchtime destination to Intu this entrance must be rethought. Another 4 or 5 stalls could be sited at this end increasing the variety of merchandise on offer and some decorative wrought iron welcoming arch would present a much more acceptable gateway to our town Market. To be honest the same style Arch ought to be sited at the other entrance too!

Just to add insult to injury the budget allocated to Christmas decorations for the market have provided 3 small Xmas trees with a few lights and an odd bauble. It looks like an after thought... especially when in one situation the power lead stretches across the main walkway!

The trouble with the arrangement of appointing 'private operators' to run services such as the market is that every pound spent on the market is a pound less profit. The focus for Town & Country Markets is clearly... This is a good opportunity providing it yields a decent profit. That profit has nothing to do with the success of the traders, only in careful management of their costs. I'm not saying I have the answer (yet) but with the 'operator' not incentivised to help make this work and the council having washed their hands of it, you can see why the traders now feel the only people interested in their success is themselves. Marginalisation of the market, and poor performance in every aspect of attention to detail in getting the market operational, you could be thinking the powers that be want this to fail.

In spite of all the above the traders at the market are a resilient lot, I get a sense of the good old 'British fighting spirit' emerging,

"we're not going to wither and fade away, we'll not go quietly into the night and disappear... No... We're going to make this work! It's cold at times, it's windy too, it's outside and it's different, but we've invested a lot of time and money in the New Market and we're committed to making it work".

All they would like to see is some effort from those around them and some shared passion for this important part of Watford. This ought to be a destination in Watford, people should see the decorative roof and signage and say 'we want to visit the Watford Market', there is still some way to go in getting even close to this.

There is no doubt that some units will change hands over the coming 12 months. There is every probability that the range of products and services will change as the New Market settles down. The clientele have changed, the people that visited the old market via bus and collected for companionship and coffee once a week have now gone. The market must rebuilt almost from scratch and attract a younger audience and to do this it has to offer something not available elsewhere in Watford... Great food is a start, fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, fish and a Deli... Where is the Deli? But a secret ingredient is still missing to draw in more people, but I personally believe it will happen.

In the same way that we must pull together to rebuild community in Watford, the New Market is a microcosm of this along with supporting all our local independent business owners who are working really hard in difficult trading times. We know that much more of the money we spend stays in the local community if we use local people. The market traders and all our local businesses need our support so please get behind the #L4GBuyLocalWatford campaign and let's ensure that our hard working local people stay in business and help Watford prosper in 2015.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Let's support all our local businesses #L4GBuyLocal

Last Saturday saw the second of the Small Business Saturday initiatives take place. This is a national day 1st Saturday in December that serves to focus people on using small independent traders instead of the 'multiples'. Taking this concept to another level locally #Link4Growth launched their national campaign #L4GBuyLocal. This hashtag is going to be used right across social media to consistently and constantly bang the drum for supporting our local businesses.

In #Watford we are going to be using the hashtag #L4GBuyLocalWatford to promote the independent traders in our high street, the new market and to every small business in the area... and... Everyone can join in!!

Are you running a local business? Do you want more local people to know what you do? Would you like to do more business within a 5 mile radius locally? Would you like to be able to get your skills, knowledge and experience out to a wider audience? ... If the answer to these questions is yes? ... Then... YOU are exactly who we want to talk too... AND... It's not about taking your money off you!!

This is about working together... As a collective community... Collaborating with each other... Supporting each other... and keeping our money in our local economy for longer, so it works for us, locally! When we work together we can all prosper, what have we got to lose?

Check out the A6 Card to the left we are now distributing around Watford...

So... what do you need to do?

Get in touch with #Link4Growth contact : chris.ogle@link4Growth.biz or call 07834 754000 or tweet @chrisogle

What we are effectively doing is creating a local community website hub where everyone can participate, join in, update what's happening, make comments and actually be part of the local community. It includes local News & updates (by us the people of Watford), community TV, a list of all the events where you can meet other local people, localised town / suburb village areas for posting what's happening right where you are... and lots more... all for no cost! ... this is now possible... but who knew until now??

What will happen after you contact us?

  1. We have a conversation about you and your business
  2. We invite you to come and meet other local people looking to rebuild #Watford our community and supporting #L4GBuyLocalWatford (FREE) 
  3. We get you into the online community where you can promote your business... And easily find out about others local businesses too! (FREE)
  4. We provide access to affordable low cost training so you can start to grow and expand your skills and use of technology
  5. YOU become part of something to be proud of. Rebuilding our local community by taking ACTION

What if we all did the above? As you can see this is not about the money this is about creating something that we can all play a part in.

If you have ever said "doesn't matter what I think, nothing will change", or "what they should do is", or "I'm just one person I can't make a difference" ... Then stop it!! ... because now YOU CAN!

We CAN do it when we work together as #TeamWatford ... It's already started... The people in the list at the end of this post are already working hard in Watford... for the people of Watford... Not for the council, not for some big business and not for Money... But for the good people of Watford, because we care about Watford we're passionate about the town and we want to play our part in making it better for us all.

If there were 1,000 or more of us all doing a little bit each... How much more could we do, how fast could we do it? ... The time is now!!! Get in touch... chris.ogle@link4growth.biz or contact any of the people below... EVERYONE can play a part, young, old, employed, unemployed, female, male... Come and be part of this exciting journey, there has never been anything like it before, YOUR chance to make the changes you want to see... Don't be one of those that look back in ten years who says "I could have done something really important, I had my chance, but I just picked myself up, dusted myself down, and walked on past"

Watford Community Team

Contact us now, YOU CAN make a massive difference : chris.ogle@link4growth.biz  @chrisogle @link4growth 07834 754000

JOIN US AT Ocean Bells Coffee Company Ltd on the 15th December from 10:00am
JOIN US AT Moon-Under-Water (high street) on the 18th December from 6:00pm

The good news is that this is happening around the country, nationally too! ... If you know people who are community focussed let's help them do the same thing where they are!

Monday, 8 December 2014

Watford vs Luton. Which town should you invest in?

Local property specialist +James Caley investigates two local towns to compare investment opportunities and asks the question, where would you put your money?

As a property investor and a letting agent in Watford I get around a fair bit talking to a fair few landlords and property investors along the way. One question I’m regularly asked is: What do you think about Luton? My first response is usually “Well I never go there unless I’m flying from the Airport!” Of course we’re talking about the town and whether it’s worth investing there compared to Watford. So how does it stack up?


More can be read here... 

Blog post by +James Caley local #Watford Property specialist

Saturday, 6 December 2014

L4G SW Herts End of Year Report

With 2014 now in its last month, I thought it would be appropriate if we had a post that brought everything that L4G SW Herts had done over the year and looked back on the growth in the district over the year. At the end of this blog, I will talk about some of the future plans for 2015 and how things may progress in year ahead.

Events

The essence of Link4Growth is hosting free community building events and bringing people together to see how we can help them. Currently, there are around 15 events a month in a variety of locations and types ranging from coffees, drinks and the occasional curry night which was launched in SW Herts back in September with a follow up in November. As well as increasing the number of events, we have started events in new areas of the district including in Moor Park in the excellent Cafe Loco and in Nash Mills where we collaborate with a local charity called Waterways Experiences who allow us to host our event on board their wide-beam narrowboats. We have also launched a fortnightly event at the Watford Market we people who are interested in buying local can come, meet the L4G team and then be introduced to the traders they want to meet. 


Buy Local

As stated on many different parts of the L4G collateral, buying local and supporting independent businesses is a key part of the L4G ethos. Not only does buying local help support our local communities but it enables us to find some products that aren't available in the national/multi-national chain shops. 



This year, saw the launch of the new market in Watford and this saw a new urgency to give the buy local initiative the spark it needs. As well as the push to expand the Buy Local community on G+, we have created a YouTube playlist which is a list of short videos with the same traders we are looking to help. The playlist can be found here

Charities and CSR

As well as helping local businesses, we also want to help local charities who not only do really good work in our community but they also lack the ability to get their message out to the people who can help them. We regularly host a CSR lunch in Rickmansworth which enables charities to meet businesses who may be able to help them. As a result of these event, we have been able to collaborate with two charities in particular and help promote their events online and offline. L4G has had a presence at many of the events that charities host and this is mainly due to our passion to help these charities.



The SW Herts Community Reporters and District Website

The last 3 months has seen a real team develop in SW Herts in which every member is passionate about bringing the community the good news that happens to the community. Not only does this enable more information to be found and shared, it also reduces the workload for each member and this means they are more able to contribute. See the blog post by +Chris Ogle for details about the team. 

This crack team has enabled us to produce the District Website for SW Herts. This website found here is a one stop shop for all things relevant to SW Herts with links to the Community TV shows, L4G communities on G+, links to local events and a blog which anyone can contribute to. This is key to making it easy for people to find out how to get involved with every aspect that we offer.

The future?

So what does 2015 hold for L4G in SW Herts. Well I cant tell you what will happen but here are some predictions:

  • There will be new events spread around the district. Areas such as Rickmansworth and the Langleys will have new community building events and this will enable us to help as many people as we can in the area. As well as new areas, I'm sure that we will add events in areas like Cassiobury, at West Herts College as well as the soon to be opened Reason Coffee Shop at the top of Watford High Street. 

  • The Buy Local initiative will exploded and the aforementioned Buy Local community will begin to fill with deals, offers and specials from local traders who you can support. Armed with the new BuyLocal cards, members of SW Herts' reporters will be spreading the word of how Link4Growth can help.

  • The CSR lunches will be buzzing with local charities who are looking to remove the cloak of invisibility from around them. This will result in them being found by people who can help them which will result in them achieving their goals in helping people. 

2014 has seemed so many developments and this is just a sample of what has happened this year. 2015 will be as good and next year's report should be even better than this years.