According to a recent article in the Watford Observer (link here) the former Rickmansworth police station site has been purchased by Lidl, the low cost German supermarket chain. This news has been met with dismay by many Rickmansworth residents, with a number taking to Twitter to voice their concerns. Are Lidl out of touch with the local market and making a mistake? Or is it what the people of Rickmansworth want and need?
An outdated ideal?
With its close proximity to London, period buildings and fantastic transport links, to many people Rickmansworth is the commuters dream. The sentiment on Twitter and other social networks is that Rickmansworth is ‘too good’ for a Lidl (the Primark of the supermarket world) but other than the price of houses and beer, is there anything particularly middle class about Rickmansworth?
A quick glance at Rickmansworth High Street would suggest otherwise. The JD Weatherspoon owned Pennsylvanian pub, famous for its low cost booze, is arguably the busiest in the town, and Iceland, another low cost supermarket, seems to have a steady stream of customers. There is also the recent boom of charity shops, which at five stores now even outnumber the ever popular coffee shops. There is even talk of another one opening soon. Do these factors indicate that there is a gap in the market for low cost supermarkets in Rickmansworth..?
Difficult times but all is not lost
Rickmansworth like the rest of England has been hit by the global economic downturn, which has had a profound effect on the High Street and the type of shops that it is able to attract. That said, there are some fantastic independents that are thriving whilst doing everything they can to make a real difference. Cinnamon Square and Dickens Wine Merchants are just two examples of the type of shops people expect to see in Rickmansworth. They are clearly popular but if they are going to flourish and attract other similar outlets to the town, they must be supported. This may mean spending a few pennies extra and taking some more time over your shopping, but if the whole of Rickmansworth makes an effort then maybe the recent swing towards low cost shops can be reversed.
As with any retail outlet, its success or failure is ultimately decided by its customers. Should the Lidl development go ahead it will be interesting to see whether it is used by the people Rickmansworth, or if, as the local Twitterati suggest, it is an under-used and therefore unprofitable store that doesn’t last the test of time.