Shop Local: Why shopping online can also help St Albans independent retailers

Hannah Sessions with her St Albans collection of mugs, postcards, tea towels and other stationery

Hannah Sessions with her St Albans collection of mugs, postcards, tea towels and other stationery - Credit: Archant

As part of our #ShopLocal campaign, we have been highlighting what website services our independent shops are providing, but we are also fortunate enough to have plenty of purely digital businesses operating from the district.

Hannah Sessions' St Albans collection

Hannah Sessions' St Albans collection - Credit: Archant

With a second lockdown now underway, there’s no excuse not to still shop local - online.

Rosie Sorrell (rosiesorrell.com) is a gift shop selling homewares, prints, kitchen accessories, jewellery and clothing.

Founder Sarah Luck explained: “We provide rainbow and retro-inspired home and kitchen wares, from mugs to tea towels hand printed in Marshalswick. Tablecloths, towels, interior decor all inspired by the colourful retro styles of the ‘70s with some Scandinavian and Polish folk art thrown in. You will find something unique and colourful in our shop. We’re also one of the few UK retailers of Australia based jewellery brand Erstwilder with their pin-up style brooches, necklaces and scarves.”

She is urging residents to choose locally-based online retailers instead of multinationals: “When a consumer spends their money with a local small business, not only are they supporting that business but other local businesses too. I know I use as many local businesses as possible as my suppliers and this contributes to sustaining the local economy.

Some of the products sold by Rosie Sorrell.

Some of the products sold by Rosie Sorrell. - Credit: Archant

“Also, local independent retailers bring an element of individualism with unique product ranges and designs that you won’t find in larger outlets. Often the service provided by small business are of a high standard as we take pride in the service we provide and understand that people appreciate a high level of customer service and we too, greatly appreciate our customers. For example I spend a lot of time sourcing and deciding on the freebies we add to all of our orders, just to give that personal touch and added value - a reward if you like, for supporting small!”

Freelance designer Hannah Sessions runs Hannah Sessions Design (www.hannahsessionsdesign.com), creating hand-drawn artwork including a range of products featuring St Albans maps and pubs which she sells online and as part of St Albans Charter Market.


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“The main challenges that I am facing at this moment Is the massive level of uncertainty about what will happen for day to day and whether we will be trading till Christmas ‘normally’? For me and many others Christmas is a massive focal point in the year and the income from this should help us to get through the first quarter of the year. Because of this I do feel that this is a definite make or break situation for many sadly.

“I do feel very strongly about the independent shops in town. It is these shops that contribute to our unique city centre. They make our high street different to other surrounding towns. If we lose these we will lose businesses that have been around many years and provided many jobs and memories. I strongly feel that at this time customers continue to shop local on the market and support our traders who like shops have not been finding the current situation easy.”

Some of the products sold by Rosie Sorrell.

Some of the products sold by Rosie Sorrell. - Credit: Archant

Katie Carr is the brains behind Tommy & Lottie, a brand of unisex, ethical and sustainable clothing based in St Albans.

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“Although there are so many more people online than there ever has been before there is also more competition so it is sometimes harder to be seen in a saturated marketplace.

“With all the social media platforms now based on ‘paid ads’ you have to pay for posts so that audiences can actually see it. You have to be more creative and clever with your campaigns and have a strategy and budget in place which is hard for us small businesses to afford.

“The other challenge is actually doing more physical events and pop-ups, as most have been cancelled this year. There is nothing better than chatting to people about the business and them actually physically seeing the quality and designs.”

Some of the items produced by St Albans brand Tommy & Lottie.

Some of the items produced by St Albans brand Tommy & Lottie. - Credit: Archant

She has her own argument for why people should shop local: “I think there has been a shift in how people are now thinking about their local retailers since the pandemic. People are not travelling as far to shop so want to walk into the city on a much regular basis and have shops to go to, but also want the convenience and feel safer by shopping online. But let’s face it, look at the state of our environment so if you want to help our planet start by shopping local as much as possible.

“Our independent retailers are unique, they are the heart of what makes our community ‘St Albans’ the great place it is and it helps the environment. Shopping locally reduces your carbon footprint and keeps the money in the local economy.”

Some of the products sold by Rosie Sorrell.

Some of the products sold by Rosie Sorrell. - Credit: Archant

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