Mark Coles Executive Director, Property
A high quality of life in Letchworth for all residents
The town centre is vibrant
Our brilliant local businesses are the beating heart of our Garden City. During the first lockdown, many had no option but to close their doors, while others had to adapt their business model in a matter of days to survive.
We knew that many of our tenants were going to be hit hard by the lockdown, especially shops, cafés, bars, restaurants, hairdressers, beauty salons, travel agents and gyms.
We wanted to help them increase their chances of bouncing back once the lockdown restrictions had been lifted. On 20th March we announced a tenant support package offering a three-month rent-free period for these vulnerable businesses. For many, this took the pressure off and gave them an opportunity to adapt to a new way of doing business.
“Allowing us a three-month rent holiday took some of the weight from our shoulders. It allowed us to experiment with our business and look at doing other things. COVID prompted us to change our entire business model.” Harry Williams, Co-owner, Vutie Beets
“The three-month payment holiday was a lifesaver. We really couldn’t have asked for more. Lockdown opened up our minds and unlocked new potential for our business.” Fabio Vincenti, Co-owner, Fabio's Gelato
The early signs were worrying, but through hard work and collaboration, our Property Team and tenants worked together to find solutions to get them through 2020. These arrangements, alongside the funding and loans offered by the government, allowed our tenants much-needed breathing space to adapt and respond as needed.
For some businesses, this support elevated them to the next level by enabling them to grow their business, which may not have otherwise happened. Another positive outcome was the opportunity to improve relationships with our tenants. Our property managers made communication a priority, making hundreds of phone calls to speak to people about their circumstances. These conversations helped us gain an insight into how business owners were managing and work with them to find a way forward. We want to build on these relationships and insights so that we can continue to support our tenants as they face the longer-term impact of COVID-19.
“We are grafters. Lockdown was the catalyst for us introducing deliveries and setting up a new website so that customers could order online. I’m super-grateful to the Heritage Foundation for stepping in to help us.” Jemma McLean, Owner, The Bakehouse (formerly The Cakey Lady)