Like every other city across the UK, St Albans has faced its toughest crisis to date in one of history’s most notable pandemics. Yet, confidence in the historic market-town is skyrocketing. Absolutely Hertfordshire finds out why
Following on from full re-opening in July, business leaders say St Albans is thriving. Just 20 miles from London, its spectacular high-street, charming independent shops and eateries, legendary Charter markets, historic buildings and beautiful outside spaces make the city particularly strong in the staycation market.
“Post pandemic, we are delighted to see that footfall figures have bounced back,” manager of St Albans BID, Denise Parsons, says. “We’re seeing higher than the national average footfall and we anticipate this trend to continue. Building a better a future for all commerce in St Albans is our priority – and this includes supporting all of our local businesses and working alongside our partners and communities in order to maximise opportunities and continue to build on our successes.”
Commercial interest in the city is very strong with big brands opening new retail outlets including burger eatery, Five Guys, and sports clothing chain, Sports Direct. Smaller independent brands and franchises have also opened up, occupying previously empty retail units.
Despite the pandemic, Oliver Zissman, owner of Leafy salad bar in Christopher Place, decided to open in March 2021 and hasn’t looked back. “St Albans is the first location for Leafy, with number two planned in Harpenden or Hitchen in 2022, and our opening months have been absolutely incredible,” he smiles. “We have exceeded our forecasts for the first six months and the feedback from customers has been totally overwhelming. I think St Albans’ success, first and foremost, is its big sense of community and local support for independent business. We are seeing new store openings every week, with hospitality being at the forefront, the city is definitely thriving and we are delighted to be part of that.”
Bogdan Mamrosh is the owner of award-winning franchise, Love Brownies, and he tells us that he chose St Albans as his top location due to its popularity with tourists as well as its busy town centre. “St Albans has a fantastic vibe,” he says. “I think its community, history and special events make an incredibly solid package for any business who is trying to build a successful offering at this difficult time. Market days are great and especially the big street events, not just because they bring more trade, but because it brings people together and gives us all a sense of normality and positivity.”
Terzetto Stone, a family run business selling high-quality natural stone and porcelain wall and floor tiles, will soon be opening their fourth UK showroom in Chequer Street. Owner, Tim Cook, says: “We opened our first showroom in Yorkshire in 2004 and have grown organically since then and we’re delighted to be opening our fourth showroom in St Albans in the coming weeks. We chose St Albans because of its vibrant city centre with a great mix of shops, all easily accessible for our customers. Everyone has been very welcoming and we are looking forward to being part of the community and helping to support the city to continue to be a great place for people to shop.”
Megan’s, with restaurant outlets across South West London, Surrey and Islington, is also new to the city and chose St Albans as their only market village location. “We offer a homely environment in leafy neighbourhoods where we aim to become part of the heart of the community, so St Albans is perfectly in-line with our ethos and roots,” head of marketing, Amy Harris, explains. “It’s been both an exciting and stressful time, due to team shortages, but we’re in a good place now and we’re delighted to embed ourselves in our new environment. St Albans certainly feels like the most-homely of our restaurants.”
“A fabulous shopping destination, St Albans is home to an array of innovative independent retailers and well-known chains and the fact that more big brands like Sports Direct and Five Guys have chosen to open stores in the area shows real confidence in the city of St Albans,” Denise Parsons adds. “Our big cultural events like the Food & Drink Festival were a huge success, with more than 15,000 people flocking to the highlight, FEASTIVAL, believed to be the highest ever – we view our outdoor events as being crucial to the cultural and economic success of the city, driving footfall and spend.
“St Albans is also famous for its colourful history and heritage as well as its café and pub culture with a fantastic range of award-wining eating and drinking establishments – all of this makes St Albans a more attractive place to live, visit, invest and work, which will only continue to build on the economic success of the city.”
And, to conclude, Parsons had one last heartfelt thing to say about the area. “It’s really the community at the heart of St Albans’ success, people have worked hard to navigate the challenges of the pandemic and they have chosen to support our businesses throughout. It’s thanks to their ongoing support and investment that St Albans is once again booming.”
Visit EnjoyStAlbans.com to find out more