End of an era for St Albans gift shop

Huttons assistant manager Tania Lane and manager Landy Kelly with a book of messages from customers,

Huttons assistant manager Tania Lane and manager Landy Kelly with a book of messages from customers, left after hearing Huttons will be closing after 5 and half years - Credit: Archant

A popular small business has been forced to shut up shop due to the risk of rent increase and a rise in business rates.

Huttons, a gift shop in the Maltings shopping centre, has been a firm favourite of St Albans shoppers since it opened in 2009.

Now at the end of its lease, the shop cannot afford to stay in the prime city centre location because the business rates are so high.

If they were to renew their lease it is likely the rent would rise too and they can’t keep up with the high rent big businesses are willing to pay.

Owner Mark Hutton said: “The cost of having a shop is increasing, the business rates are increasing; it’s destined for a disaster.

“The big guys keep getting bigger and the small guys keep getting smaller. The Maltings have always been supportive, and I’m sure they would love us to stay.

“What does upset me is the business rates, St Albans is so much higher than everywhere else.

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“Another problem is that we have a rent review. If we were to stay we couldn’t afford a higher rent. We can’t have higher rent, we need lower rent!”

Online competition was also posing a big problem for Huttons. Mark added: “Online competitors are in such a better position than us. You see people come in, check labels and then leave the shop.

“You expect to move forwards and not backwards. I’m really sad.

“We started off and it was a great start, our first year was the best. The people of St Albans are very nice and supportive. It is a real shame.

“There’s been a retail revolution and we didn’t invest in the Internet when we should have.”

The shop will be closing in three to four weeks and currently has a closing-down sale, with many items up to half price.

No-one at the Maltings shopping centre was available to comment.

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