Shop Local: How independent shops help to bring the St Albans community together
- Credit: Archant
For many independent traders, Christmas is traditionally their busiest time of the year, which means a worrying outlook for this year given the current restrictions.
Baking business Heaven is a Cupcake has been a lot quieter over the lockdowns, with people not having parties to celebrate birthdays and weddings being cancelled.
They have also had to stop running their cake-making classes as their premises is too small to socially distance, which has seen further decline in their income.
Owner Lucy Clark explained why it is important for them to have a successful Christmas this year: “Our business tends to be quite seasonal. We usually have a really busy spring/summer full of weddings and celebrations then a quieter winter with January being particular bad as everyone is on a diet or saving their money! This year we haven’t had that busy season so it’s really important that we have a successful Christmas to get us through the next couple of months.
“It’s really hard for small businesses right now. We are lucky that we are able to continue to trade and we are coming up with new products and ways to keep the business going but it’s tough and I think a lot of shops are going to suffer. It’s so important to shop local.
“St Albans is so lucky to have so many independent shops and small businesses that really give back to the local community, create jobs and keep our town going. It would be really sad to see an empty high street so I hope people continue to support the independents.”
Customers can order cakes and cupcakes directly through the Heaven is a Cupcake website (heavenisacupcake.net) for local delivery or contactless collection. They also post any spare treats such as brownies, cake tubs and cupcakes on their social media pages if you fancy something sweet.
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Dress Up and Dance, a fancy dress store in High Oaks, St Albans, is heavily dependent on parties, gatherings and social events, all of which have been severely curtailed by Covid.
Co-owner Anna Baillie explained: “We are a small retail outlet with a seasonal business. Christmas and New Year are normally such busy times of year for us, second only to Halloween, so it is essential for our business that we have a successful Christmas this year.
“When we took over this business in December 2019. It did not have an online shopping service. During lockdown, we rebranded the business, which involved starting from scratch with a new website (dressupanddance.com).
“What sets us apart from online competition like Amazon and eBay is that customers are able to come to our shop, have a look at costumes, accessories, dancewear and shoes, and try things on. We need to make sure this message is effectively communicated to as wide an audience as possible.
“Our shop is not in the city centre so does not have the benefit of general footfall so, again, it is an ongoing challenge to make sure people know where we are and the benefits of visiting our shop.”
Although much of the Herts Ad’s #ShopLocal campaign has focused on the city centre, there are obviously independent retailers across the district who need our support.
Anna added: “Small retailers have been disproportionately impacted by Covid and already some of them are struggling to survive. Local retail is crucial to maintain choice and diversity for consumers, and small businesses contribute so much to our community.
“If people do not use our independent shops, soon there will be very few independent shops remaining, which will lead to a lack of choice and community spirit. Local retailers have such strong links to schools, churches, nurseries and other important services. These links have huge benefits. We are four local parents whose children all go to local schools.
“We know first hand the benefits of small businesses within the St Albans community – for example, attendance at and donations to school fairs, competition prizes and sponsorship, and so on, all bring the community together. We do not want our city to lose its character and we do not want local people, who have invested in our community, to lose their livelihoods.”