Covid A Year On: Businesses adapt to coronavirus challenges

A perspex screen in place at Chloe James Lifestyle.

A perspex screen in place at Chloe James Lifestyle. - Credit: Laura Bill

Across the district, businesses used to operating under very different circumstances, adapted to the challenges of coronavirus, with many actually thriving in the face of adversity.

Wheathampstead florist Flowers by Catherine opened in September, and had just two months trading before being forced to close under the third lockdown.

Owner Catherine Jones set up a delivery service for ordinary flowers and an order and collect service for Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mothering Sunday, and actively promoted her business on social media to drive trade. 

Elsewhere in the village, all three coffee and cake shops - Charlie’s, Loafing and Brewhouse Coffee -  increased their offering and set up a collection service and Wheathampstead is now a destination for walkers – even from Harpenden! The friendly rivalry has been a great thing for the village. The Brewhouse Café opened up in lockdown and are looking forward to opening up their therapy rooms when lockdown eases.

Donna Nichol, owner of St Albans boutique Chloe James, adapted her business by developing a website so customers could order online and collect from the shop, and has been active on Instagram modelling her clothes, gifts and accessories. She was also featured on national TV promoting the Shop Local message.

A perspex screen in place at Chloe James Lifestyle.

A perspex screen in place at Chloe James Lifestyle. - Credit: Laura Bill

Louise Murphy, who runs a local franchise of mid-price womenswear brand Captain Tortue, previous took her fashions to people's houses or put on events at her own home.

In lockdown she began running Facebook Live sessions to showcase new items and give examples of how items of clothing worked with a different top or accessory. To begin with, she was completely out of her comfort zone in talking into the camera, but she’s improved substantially over the past 12 months and now her sessions are really well put together, fun and interesting and her sales have increased.

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St Albans Enterprise Agency (STANTA) has also adapted its services, delivering business advice and twice-weekly training courses via Zoom.

Director of operations Ginny Cooper said: "Business advice online has worked well and it is likely we will continue to offer this as an option once lockdown eases.  Our training courses have been very popular; in fact we’ve had more delegates attending in the last six months than ever before!

"However, our clients have said they do miss meeting up with other new businesses and sharing ideas at the in-room training, as we know that some delegates go on to form a forum for those they met on a course to share experiences and advice.  We hope to offer a mixture of online and in-person courses from September."