What next for the UK’s busiest High Streets?

Some of the current discussions on the direction of the British High Street can be neatly encompassed within the London borough of Haringey. It is home to two shopping destinations which are geographically close but very different in terms of shoppers and retailers – Crouch End in the west of the borough with a population of around 13,000 and average house prices of £694k, and Wood Green further east which straddles two electoral wards with a population of 30,000 and house prices of £555k.

Following the launch of a Business Improvement District (BID) in Wood Green, Retail Insider has done a survey to see exactly what shops make up these two destinations to find any clues this might give to achieving a successful High Street in the rest of Britain, and the effects and changes the renewed focus of a BID will bring to Haringey’s historically busiest but now slightly run down shopping centre.

Retail Insider editor Glynn Davis on Wood Green High Road in North London

In terms of accessibility, Wood Green should win hands down as it has a tube station at either end while Crouch End is frequented more by local residents and is harder to reach on public transport. However it is actually the traditional shopping centre Wood Green, which borders Tottenham, that appears to have suffered more in the tough retail climate than its more affluent neighbour.

Marketing manager at Mall Wood Green, and Chair of the BID’s Events and Marketing committee, Isaiah Fapuro admits footfall in the N22 postcode has changed significantly and cites anti-social behaviour and cleanliness as two main issues raised by retailers; in facing these problems Wood Green is very representative of numerous high streets up and down the country.

There are currently eight empty units along the High Road compared with only three on Crouch End Broadway and Wood Green has lost a host of big name retailers in the last few years including Dorothy Perkins, BHS and Next. The closure of the imposing Marks & Spencer store which disappeared along with its elegant Edwardian street clock marked the end of an era and it is these large department store units which are proving difficult to fill – often leading to short term ‘squatter shop’ tenants which further adds to the rundown atmosphere of the road, a phenomena common to countless shopping areas across Britain.

Crouch End in contrast services a local populace who favour a more leisurely shopping experience, with a strong focus on coffee and specialist food shops, perhaps more akin to a buzzy market town atmosphere. It has 11 butchers, bakers, fishmongers et cetera while the much larger Wood Green centre has 10, most of which are simple market stalls on the side of the road.

Estate agents proliferate in N8 but are almost non-existent in N22. Waitrose is in Crouch End but not Wood Green and there are 12 beauty salons and hairdressers on the Broadway compared to two on the High Road. Crouch End’s smaller shops and layout encourage a slower retail experience.

Crouch End Broadway with its iconic Clocktower

Wood Green caters largely for a different retailtainment audience and is what Isaiah Fapuro calls a ‘value for money area’. It has betting shops and amusement arcades aplenty but where one might expect its good transport links to service a thriving night time economy, it is Crouch End which is livelier once the shops shut.

Drug dealing outside the tube stations which border Wood Green, numerous darker alleyways leading away, and the fact that after 6pm the majority of its shops close means that walking down the largely empty High Road at night can be an intimidating experience. This is despite the presence of several pubs and restaurants which do open at night along its route.

Alternatively, Crouch End has 21 restaurants and pubs which continue to draw lots of people to the area long after the day time shops have closed up and give the Broadway a liveliness in the evening that many shopping centres up and down UK towns would love to emulate. It will be interesting to see whether several developments along Wood Green’s High Road to create luxury flats above the shop fronts will make a difference to the area after dark.

Where Wood Green does have a potential upside is as a niche North London phone mecca. Most major phone retailers are to be found along its length and there are an army of tiny independent units which focus on mobile phone accessories, repairs and unlocking services. Additionally, Isaiah Fapuro explains that although Wood Green is not currently known for any one thing, as nearby Green Lanes is known for its Turkish produce shops and Mediterranean restaurants for example, he hopes that the BID status will help people discover its ‘hidden gems’ such as the very large Indoor Market and Blue House Yard with its small artisan shops and vegan café and brewery.

Retail Insider will be returning to the Haringey shop survey in six months’ time to see if the extra security, street greening and marketing of the area envisaged by the BID committee has helped reverse the fortunes and restore the shopper appeal of Wood Green High Road and, if it has, to analyse the lessons which could be drawn out for other struggling centres.

Crouch End Broadway shop classification

  1. Specialist food/drink shops (butcher, baker, fishmonger) 11
  2. Supermarkets (superstores/locals)   5
  3. Charity shops   8
  4. Legal/accountancy services   2
  5. Restaurants/pubs 21
  6. Estate agents 11
  7. Beauty/hair services 12
  8. Services (launderette, PO, betting, dry cleaners, banks, gym) 13
  9. Coffee shops/cafes/sandwich shops   7
  10. Medical (opticians, chemist)   6
  11. Cinemas   2
  12. All other retail 23
  13. Empty units   3

Wood Green High Road shop classification        

  1. Specialist food/drink shops (butcher, baker) 10
  2. Supermarkets (superstores/locals)   4
  3. Charity shops   6
  4. Legal/accountancy services   0
  5. Restaurants/pubs 28
  6. Estate agents   2
  7. Beauty/hair services   2
  8. Services (launderette, PO, betting, dry cleaners, banks, gym) 20
  9. Coffee shops/cafes/sandwich shops 11
  10. Medical (opticians, chemist)   5
  11. Cinemas   2
  12. All other retail 83
  13. Empty units   8

Retail Insider team