Shopping and retail
Shopping in Luton is dominated by the Mall, which comprises many national chains. While close to the centre of Luton, Bury Park and High Town provide local shopping specific to the communities which they serve. Luton is a great place to shop, with The Mall - one of the first indoor shopping centres in the country – complemented by surrounding town centre streets and the attractive pedestrian area in George Street, home to a rich variety of specialist stores.
For entertainment and nightlife, Luton has a wealth of restaurants, bars, pubs, cafes and clubs. The Hat Factory, a first-class, cutting-edge arts venue, features innovative and highly creative work, such as contemporary drama by leading playwrights and producers from across the region and the UK, as well as the latest music from international and local artists. The venue also hosts new dance productions, as well as the latest music and comedy from international and local artists. The Hat Factory also offers a stimulating programme of activities for children, and further houses theHeadstart Project which delivers business and technical support and project desk hire facilities to the creative sector. Luton also has a multiplex cinema and the Library Theatre, offering music, drama, amateur and professional plays, comedy, children’s theatre and pantomimes. Luton is also home to a number of award winning parks and gardens.
First opened in 1972, the Arndale, as it was then called, was at the time the largest covered shopping centre in Europe, attracting shoppers from across the UK, the Netherlands and Germany. This year the Mall has been extended with a new entrance opening out onto St George’s Square and offering more commercial space for major stores. The Mall now boasts 135 stores based on two levels across almost 80,000m2, with parking for 2,500 vehicles.There are approximately 1,200 people working full-time in The Mall, as well as a further 1,700 working part-time with an additional 600 employed during the Christmas period. In 2010 The Mall had 23 million visitors, averaging approximately 430,000 visitors per week.
George Street, centre of Luton
George Street is Luton’s historic ‘High Street’ running through the centre of Luton from Market Hill down to the Town Hall. Shops and stores on the east side conjoin with The Mall shopping centre, but the street still forms a retail focal point with many independent stores and restaurants in the streets leading from it. There are approximately 249 shops and retailers in the town centre area, which includes the food restaurants. Employee numbers are estimated at over 1,000.
There has been a market in Luton since Norman times. These days Luton Market has its own section as part of the Mall. The market numbers 78 stalls selling items ranging from food to textiles, consumer and household goods. It employs in excess of 120 people.
High Town Road
Compared to the centre of Luton, High Town is a quieter, traditional area of small shops and Victorian terraced houses. The shop fronts along High Town Road have recently been refurbished in a style befitting the Victorian heritage. As well as the range of secondhand book shops, record stores, there is now a Polish deli and a brand new Lithuanian café and grocer shop. Today there are 39 retail and food establishments and three pubs in total employing around 80 people.
Surprisingly, High Town Road has many show business connections. Not only did Diana Dors, the famous 60s British actress, spend some time working as a barmaid at The Rabbit public house, but the preserved Victoriana of High Town Road has meant that it is frequently used as a location for film and television filming.
Bury Park/Dunstable Road
Bury Park is located one mile north west of the centre of Luton on the road to Dunstable. Since the mid-1970s a large Muslim Pakistani and Bangladeshi community has grown and Bury Park is now the home of a purpose-built mosque, as well as Luton Town Football Club.
Bury Park has a large commercial area specialising in fruit, vegetables, and Asian clothing, in addition to a significant number of restaurants. Many of the shops spill out onto the especially widened pavement creating a vibrant South Asian bazaar feel to the area. It attracts shoppers from far and wide given its specialism in goods of South Asian origin and as a result employs hundreds of people.
Other local shopping areas provide for the shopping needs of local residents. These include in Leagrave, Stopsley, Chaul End, Gypsy Lane and Limbury.
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