Shop Local: St Albans retailers talk sweets and treats

PUBLISHED: 18:00 30 October 2020

Rock Pop Candy have found the Inside Out market to be a 'lifeline' for their business. Picture: Rock Pop Candy

Rock Pop Candy have found the Inside Out market to be a 'lifeline' for their business. Picture: Rock Pop Candy

Archant

It’s not just the high street which needs our support through the pandemic, the district also boasts plenty of online retailers who are struggling.

This newspaper visited plant-based foodie provider Tara’s Vegan Treats and retro sweetshop Rock Pop Candy to talk about their experiences of trading in these tricky times.

Owner of Tara’s Vegan Treats, which operates online and as part of St Albans Charter Market, Tara Acton, said she has faced several challenges since COVID-19 but the most prominent has been trying to diversify the business.

Tara explained: “It’s not enough to make a couple of changes, because every day is proving different, with a whole new set of problems to solve, so it’s really about keeping on your toes and telling yourself you can only do so much in advance as it’s actually really difficult to anticipate which aspect of trade is going to be affected next!”

She said that she believes independents help make St Albans such a beautiful, vibrant place, bringing people from all walks of life together.

“I think independent shops bring something innovative and new to the table because they know what they’re up against, and after all they choose to open and stand tall amongst the larger companies, so if the local community remain committed to the independents, we should survive.

“One of the most important things is to remain connected with your customers, which can often prove hard as you are functioning on completely new platforms with alternative forms of outreach.”

Rock Pop Candy used to have a shop on Holywell Hill, but now operates online and with pop-up stalls at markets.

Anastasia Daniells of Rock Pop Candy said she has had 34 events cancelled this year due to the pandemic.

She said that people buying from their website are welcome but some of their products don’t post well.

Anastasia has cited the St Albans BID initiative Inside Out market as a lifeline for her. She said that good COVID controls have meant she can talk to people and show them what’s special about her products.

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She said a successful Christmas is paramount: “I honestly think it will be make or break. Like most independents we are hanging on by our fingertips.

“Most of my events have been carried over including their fees so I hope to make it through and come back stronger next year but it’s 50/50.

“Nothing is getting cheaper or easier within self-employment.

“We are competing with the big boys like Amazon as fewer and fewer people come out to shop.”

When asked why people should support the city’s independent shops she said: “When they’re gone they’re gone. I struggled to pay the rising costs and came away from bricks and mortar last year.

“Everyone says they miss the shop but the truth is if you can get everything you want at a big supermarket – including the birthday gift for someone special – you stop looking, walking and enjoying the high street.”

Anastasia said she is concerned that when the pandemic is over, there will not be anywhere to “browse, wander and enjoy and high streets will be beyond the point of return.”

The sweet shop’s website has been running for eight years but lately the owners have updated it and made it phone friendly, linking it to Facebook and Instagram.

The confectionary store has recently introduced letterbox gifting with options that fit through a postbox so there is no waiting in or missing deliveries.

They are also happy to personally deliver for free within the local area with a purchase of £25 or over.

She added: “I am really so grateful for the support I’ve received from St Albans residents and locals from surrounding areas like Colney Heath and Potters Bar.”

To visit Rock Pop Candy go to www.rockpopcandy.co.uk

For Tara’s Vegan Treats visit their Facebook page.


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