St Albans retailers reflect on first few weeks of trade since re-opening post-lockdown

PUBLISHED: 14:00 15 July 2020

A perspex screen in place at Chloe James Lifestyle.

A perspex screen in place at Chloe James Lifestyle.

Archant

With face masks now set to become compulsory in shops across England, the evolving response to the ongoing pandemic is keeping retailers on their toes.

A perspex screen in place at Chloe James Lifestyle.A perspex screen in place at Chloe James Lifestyle.

“Business has been very up and down,” says Donna Nichol, owner of Chloe James Lifestyle on the High Street, which along with fashion, jewellery and gifts, now stocks a wide range of face masks for the stylish – a sign of the times.

“Our customers who already know about us have been fantastic, but up until last Friday there was virtually no passing trade at all due to the road being closed. Trade was much better when the Inside Out market was held on the High Street.”

Books on the Hill on Holywell Hill had just opened when COVID struck and manager Antonia Mason had to close down completely as she herself had to shield.

She has been struck by the community spirit in St Albans: “The re-opening is going very well,” she says. “People have been incredibly kind and understanding with our new health and safety procedures, such as the one-way system and limiting the amount of people in store.”

How Wilde About Hair has adjusted to the social distancing requirements.How Wilde About Hair has adjusted to the social distancing requirements.

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Emma Bustamante, from Cositas on Holywell Hill, says although the re-opening has been “promising”, she is trying to cater for different kinds of customer with different levels of confidence in going out to shop: “Some are chomping at the bit to get back into the shops,” she says, “but others are still a bit wary, and there are still those who just are not ready to go out at all.”

For them, she offers the online service, or ‘click and collect’, and says she has found the upturn in her online business has been one of the positives she is hoping to build on.

There is no question about the levels of demand from those who are desperate to have their manes tamed after more than 100 days growth. Gary Wilde, of city centre salon Wilde about Hair, says he’s “been described as an emergency service by customers!”

How Wilde About Hair has adjusted to the social distancing requirements.How Wilde About Hair has adjusted to the social distancing requirements.

He is relieved to finally be open again, and says it is working well. But safety is the ultimate challenge for him, and all hair-dressers, and it comes at a cost.

“We cannot afford to absorb the cost with the volume of PPE we are having to use,” he says, “so we have had to make a charge for the ‘client care pack’.” They are also having to operate at a 60 per cent capacity and have split the team into two separate bubbles working independently, all of which is not a normal profit-making model.

Despite this Gary is very optimistic: “We will survive this,” he insists.


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