The latest from St Albans Chamber of Commerce, June 6, 2013

SA Law

SA Law - Credit: Archant

AS we await the grand opening of Pret a Manger on St Peter’s Street and despair over the remaining empty shops, the Chamber has received numerous negative comments about the retail units in our city centre.

One of our directors, Alastair Woodgate, chairs the Retail Forum Group for St Albans, an organisation of various representatives from shops in the centre who meet regularly to discuss ways to promote the retail offering here and address any arising issues that affect traders.

Alastair and I discussed the current situation and he said: “Closures are unfortunate but it is not peculiar to St Albans – and St Albans still has one of the lowest vacancy rates in the country. Some of the units (for example at the top end of St Peter’s Street) are being kept vacant intentionally by the landlords, pending redevelopment and new investment.

“There is a law of supply and demand and basic economics – if there was not a demand for coffee shops they would not open. For every person who doesn’t like the idea of Pret a Manger and Costa opening next to each other in St Peter’s Street there is someone else who welcomes this.

“It represents the changing pattern of city centres as destinations – it is no longer just about shopping – it is about a leisure experience, a café culture, meeting friends, having lunch, taking in street entertainment/markets, visiting the Abbey, museums, etc., and shopping at the same time.”

The Retail Forum is looking to set up a City Centre Partnership to promote the city centre and encourage increased footfall. It is working with the Chamber and with the council in this and is represented on the council’s Visitor Strategy Board, which aims to bring new investment and more people in to the district and improve the quality of the experience.

The Retail Forum also wants to focus on promoting specialist areas (e.g. Cathedral Quarter, Catherine Street) and the independent retailers represented in such areas, and to extend street events to these areas so the focus is not entirely on St Peter’s Street. The Retail Forum also wants to explore the possibility of ‘Business Improvement District’ status for the city centre where an element of business rate is ring-fenced for the businesses themselves to determine how it should be spent to enhance the city centre.

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So the council, the Chamber and the Retail Forum are aware of the challenges that face us in these difficult economic conditions, and are working towards encouraging investment and footfall in the city centre. Therefore it is not all doom and gloom, quite the opposite in fact!

Timely that we will be debating the current economic position next week at a joint breakfast with the Hertfordshire IoD (Institute of Directors). The event takes place at the recent Inspiring Herts awardwinning St Michael’s Manor Hotel. Delegates will hear from a panel of experts who will open a debate about how we as business leaders can promote much needed growth in our economy and how we can be more commercial in such difficult time. This event is now sold out.

We do however have spaces at our first event at Brasserie Blanc on July 10; the guest speaker will be Lawrence Levy from St Albans City FC (SACFC).

He will give a presentation to the business delegates about where SACFC is today (and how it survives), its aspirations as a sporting club and what it means to the community and local businesses.

Lawrence will also present the plans for a new stadium and demonstrate how St Albans will benefit from the plans.

Many Chamber members already work closely with the football club as commercial partners, Lawrence will also touch on this during the morning. Interested? Book now on our website as we expect another sell out.

Sporting Ambition is rife within our business community, with so many business representatives going the extra mile for charitable good causes. Fifteen staff from SA Law will run the St Albans Half Marathon on Sunday to raise money for Special Olympics St Albans.

The team from the St Albans SA Law office have dusted-off their running shoes and fellow colleagues are supporting them all the way to the finish line.

With the half marathon fast approaching, and to boost fundraising, the firm held a dress-up day where staff were asked to come into work dressed as their sporting hero. The office was transformed into an array of athletic characters including 118 118 and one of their brave trainee solicitors even had his legs waxed for the cause! The firm raised £274.61 plus an additional £175 in online donations has been raised so far.

SA Law partner and running enthusiast Terence Ritchie said: “The St Albans Half-Marathon is a great local event that brings the community together, we are delighted to be involved in supporting the event and honoured to run in aid of Special Olympics St Albans. We are no strangers to taking on challenges but this year we are hoping to beat our fundraising record.”

You can support SA Law’s running team by visiting On behalf of everyone the Chamber and everyone at SA Law, we’d like to wish all runners the very best of luck. Fundraising page:

Many fundraisers are now using Golden Giving as they are an ethical company who do not take any commission – so 100 per cent of our fundraising will go straight to your chosen charity.