New chains are changing face of St Albans city centre
- Credit: Laura Bill
An influx of new brand names into St Albans are a surefire indication of the city's bounceback from the pandemic after months of uncertainty.
Sports clothing chain Sports Direct is set to move into The Maltings Shopping Centre, burger outlet Five Guys will be occupying the now vacant Clinton Cards unit on St Peter's Street, and franchise Love Brownies has taken over the site of STA Travel in Market Place.
Freda Chaloner, chairman of St Albans Civic Society, said: "We are pleased to see new businesses coming into the city centre – a welcome confidence boost.
"If new shops like Sports Direct and new restaurants like Five Guys bring more and younger people and their disposable income into the city then that will help to sustain retail variety, vitality and viability."
Manager of St Albans BID, Denise Parsons, also welcomed the new retailers: "The arrival of big retail and hospitality brands in St Albans shows what confidence there is in our city centre.
"With so much choice at our fingertips, we must continue to offer people a fantastic shopping experience – one that they cannot get online. Big brand names complement our vibrant independent shops and businesses, create jobs and drive footfall - all of which are important as we continue to navigate the challenges of the pandemic.”
Deryane Tadd from independent boutique The Dressing Room, added: "Unfortunately rents and rates are so high that really it’s only large chains that can afford to take on units of this size, counting out smaller more individual businesses.
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"I believe a thriving high street benefits from having good quality national retailers alongside a mix of individual independent stores that draw in footfall.
"We are currently seeing so many empty units on high streets that we need to bring about change, The only way to change this dynamic is by looking at a fundamental change in the way that rent and rates are charged."