I was pleased to introduce our now annual ‘Going for Growth’ conference earlier this month, which is a one day event set up to provide local businesses with informed, professional advice on business strategy and growth, international trade, new markets, plus finance, human resources and apprenticeship advice. It was a really positive session, and I was left feeling that there is a strong sense of optimism among the local business community, despite all the doom and gloom in the media. Watford is officially now one of the top 20 locations in Britain to do business – that’s impressive!
One of the speakers at the Going for Growth conference was Lisa Nelson of Bespoke Nelson. She told us how she’d always loved dress-making and had seen a gap in the market for women’s clothing made to be worn by men. She started her company with the support of the Wenta Business Incubator, a project that the council has been closely involved in setting up and providing funding for. She told us her USP is ‘discretion’ – which I thought was very insightful and undoubtedly a key to why she’s doing so well. Plus the clothes were beautiful – it was hard to tell whether or not the models wearing them on the day were actually women!
I couldn’t write this positive business blog without mentioning our retail sector, which has of course taken a hit. Sadly the same big stores like HMV and Blockbusters are closing in Watford as they are elsewhere in the country. It’s the recession mixed with a change in consumer buying habits, not helped in Watford by our high business rates and rents – none of which we the council unfortunately has any say over.
But unlike in other places, there is also much to be positive about in our retail sector: the Charter Place redevelopment is moving forwards well, we’ve seen new stores like the Lego store opening in the Harlequin and most recently heard that our John Lewis store will be transforming its 2nd floor into a Waitrose. This is without indicative of huge optimism in Watford.
I hope some of you that read this blog also managed to attend the Going for Growth conference. I hope we’ll be doing another one next year, so do look out for it.