The planned regeneration of Hereford is vital to the future success of the city, says one of its most experienced retailers, Kirsty Chadd, managing director of the family department store, Chadds, which is shortly to close. "If it had happened 20 years ago Chadds might not now be closing," she said.
Hereford, she said, had gone downhill over many years because of a lack of investment in the city as a mainstream shopping destination, but the planned £multi-million investment to revitalise the city centre with new shopping and leisure facilities on the old livestock market, a thousand new homes, a library and a new link road to ease traffic problems would make it competitive again.
But while giving her full support to the regeneration project, Kirsty Chadd made a call for some of the redevelopment funds to be spent improving the existing city centre to make it more attractive to visitors. Hereford, she added, must do a better job selling itself. Retailers, especially the independents, would need to be more pro-active in promoting themselves. The city should also promote its great assets, such as the cathedral and the river.
She added: "In shopping terms, the city centre does not even provide adequately for the locals never mind attracting people from outside the area. We have been losing customers to other towns in the region who were quicker to develop the facilities modern shoppers expect.
"Hereford is so far behind everywhere else. We must not lose this opportunity to bring the city into line with 21st Century shopping and leisure trends."
Kirsty said: "Once we have established a good shopping experience, it will not only attract more shoppers, but also encourage more businesses to set up in Hereford as well as young families to make their home here. They are the ones who will boost the local economy.
"Yes, Herefordshire has beautiful countryside and an enviable quality of life, but that alone is not enough. We live in a competitive age, and with everything in place for the redevelopment to start in two years, Hereford will soon be able to compete on level terms with the likes of Shrewsbury, Cheltenham and Worcester."
She was impressed with the vision of the appointed developer, Stanhope, to link the new retail quarter with the existing historic core of the city and urged that there should be a good mix of shops, with a quality department store, such as House of Fraser, as the main anchor.
Recognising the current financial problems facing the country, Kirsty, said, "Now is the time for developers and house builders to invest in the city, and when the new Retail Quarter opens in four years the country will be coming out of recession and Hereford will be in pole position to grab the new opportunity."
She added, "I want my children to grow up in a great place, with a real future, and that’s what Hereford now has the chance to become."